Retail (Cost Pressures)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 28th September 2022.

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Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

8. To ask the Scottish Government how it will address any concerns over cost pressures affecting the retail sector. (S6O-01395)

Photo of Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

As outlined in our programme for government, we will work with the business community to identify further measures that can assist in addressing increased costs and economic disruption. However, as the member will appreciate, the powers and resources needed to tackle this emergency on the scale required—access to borrowing, welfare, VAT on fuel, taxation of windfall profits, and regulation of the energy market—currently all lie with the United Kingdom Government. We have continually urged the UK Government to use all the powers and fiscal headroom at its disposal and we will continue to do everything within our resources and powers to help those who are most affected.

We have been calling for the UK Government to introduce a business energy cap for some time. I welcome that it has now done so, but without substantial reform to the energy market, there is a real risk that this temporary measure will prove to be inadequate.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

Let us look at what the Scottish Government could do, with

“Potentially thousands of businesses facing closure next year.”

That is the warning from the Scottish Grocers Federation over the proposed deposit return handling fees, which it warns will not cover retailer costs. Does the minister agree that it is worth at least having a review now, a year ahead of the launch, to ensure that retailers will not face serious losses?

Photo of Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

I am very much looking forward to speaking at the Scottish Grocers Federation conference next week. We are committed to the launch of the deposit return scheme next year. It is an industry-led scheme, but we have been engaging with business and we will continue to do so, including with the retail sector.

Photo of Audrey Nicoll Audrey Nicoll Scottish National Party

The retail sector is facing substantial pressures as a result of the cost of living, not to mention Brexit. Can the minister provide any further information on the Scottish Government’s latest engagement with the sector regarding meeting current challenges and building resilience for the future?

Photo of Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

Yes, we have regular engagement with the retail sector and the wider business community. I co-chaired the first meeting of the newly inaugurated retail industry leadership group on 25 August. We discussed a variety of issues, including the implementation of our retail strategy—particularly developing a fair work agreement and commencing a skills audit, which are both identified as key priorities in the strategy.

The next meeting of the group will be in early November and I am happy to keep members updated on its progress.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

That concludes portfolio questions. There will be a brief pause before we move to the next item of business.