Covid-19 Pandemic (Supermarkets)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 17th December 2020.

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Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

8. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the supermarket sector regarding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. (S5O-04872)

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

The Scottish ministers and Scottish Government officials have engaged regularly with supermarkets and other food retailers on a range of issues throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, we have worked closely with them to ensure continuity of supply to Scotland’s islands and to provide priority delivery slots to people who were shielding during the lockdown.

Food Standards Scotland has produced guidance for all food businesses, including retailers, that supports risk assessment and risk management to help them to operate safely. That includes a self-assessment tool for food businesses to use to ensure that implementation of Covid-19 safety measures continues to be effective. During the Christmas shopping period, stores will be markedly busier, so in order to ensure the safety of staff and customers, it is vital that existing measures are followed.

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

Does the minister expect that the Scottish Government will have any further information that it could pass on about how much money it expects to be returned by supermarkets in Scotland that have decided not to accept the rates relief that was put in place as part of the package of support for the retail sector of the economy during the pandemic? I think that I first heard about that initiative from my colleague Shona Robison. Does the minister agree that that money represents an opportunity to provide even greater support to businesses in my constituency and across Scotland that have been hit hard by the on-going pandemic?

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

First, it is right that we commend the supermarkets that have committed to reimbursing the public finances with support that they received through rates relief. Every penny that is returned to us will be invested in our recovery from Covid-19 and will be used to support those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

We think that the value to Scotland of that funding could be in the region of £200 million. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance has written to the Treasury to seek urgent clarity on how the moneys from retailers will be made available. We are very clear that any revenues that are voluntarily repaid by ratepayers in Scotland should remain in Scotland and not be withheld by the United Kingdom Government.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

That concludes portfolio questions. I know that some members who have put themselves forward for the debate under the next item of business are not in the chamber. They should realise by now, in the session, that it is follow-on business.