Less than two hours ago, Aberdeen was rocked by the announcement that, after more than 30 years in the city, John Lewis in Aberdeen will not reopen. That comes just two weeks after Debenhams shut the doors of its Aberdeen store. That means that 256 employees could be made redundant and, given that BHS remains empty five years after closing, Arcadia has shut several stores in the city and Debenhams is now empty, the outlook for Aberdeen high street is bleak.
What will the Government do to help employees and reinvigorate Aberdeen retail after the pandemic? Does the First Minister now agree that the SNP’s decision to delay the business rates revaluation has had a devastating impact on businesses in Aberdeen?
First, this morning’s news from John Lewis is a blow to Aberdeen and my thoughts are with all the employees of John Lewis who will be affected.
As the member is aware, the Aberdeen store is the only one in Scotland among a number across the United Kingdom that John Lewis has decided not to reopen after lockdown. The reason that he gives for that does not bear any scrutiny.
However, the member raises an important issue, and he is right to raise it. The Scottish Government will engage with John Lewis directly. The partnership action for continuing employment initiative will be used to help employees who are affected. We will, of course, also engage with Aberdeen City Council.
The revitalisation of our high streets will be one of our priorities as we come out of lockdown and out of the pandemic. We will work with local authorities and the Scottish Retail Consortium to make sure that we are taking the right steps. In the short term, we will do everything that we can to support the affected employees.