Today, Tuesday 2nd of February, the Scottish Retail Consortium launches their retail manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary elections. The manifesto explains the current crisis facing the industry and outlines a strategic vision for the next Scottish Government and Parliament that would reduce the policy costs and complexity which bedevil the industry and allow it to flourish over the next five years. The 34-page manifesto reports 13,000 retail jobs were lost between 2016-2018 and £3.48 billion in annual turnover was lost from the industry between 2014-18; figures which are likely to severely worsen when the full account of 2020 is reported.
The detailed paper from the leading industry representative group comes ahead of the Holyrood election scheduled for 6 May. The paper covers devolved policymaking, business and personal taxation, regulation, skills, retail crime, sustainability, the UK internal market and further devolution.
The retail industry is Scotland’s largest private sector employer, providing almost a quarter of a million jobs, and the SRC’s members include well known high street, out-of-town, online and grocery retailers. The retail industry makes a significant economic and social contribution to Scotland – it pays over a fifth of business rates, accounts for one in every eight new firms, and the industry generates £16 million for good causes and charity. It has the potential to grow by £2 billion over the next few years.
The Scottish Retail Consortium’s key recommendations for the next Scottish Government are to deliver:
- And implement a Scottish Retail Strategy
- A policy moratorium for one year after the suppression of the Covid-19 virus to allow businesses to recover
- The most competitive business tax system in the UK and a firm timetable to substantially lower the headline business rates poundage
- Income and Council Tax policies which do not increase the cost of living for ordinary consumers
- More flexible Retail Modern Apprenticeship Frameworks and reform the Flexible Workplace Development Fund
- A collaborative approach to with retail to tackle climate change by building on the industry's ground-breaking Climate Action Plan
Commenting on the launch, Scottish Retail Consortium Director David Lonsdale said:
“This Holyrood election comes as the industry hits the very apex of the current retail revolution. Covid has accelerated the existing trends in retail: including driving customers towards digital, weakened demand, and put retailers under unparalleled pressure. Last year saw the worst ever retail sales figures, a six year peak in shop vacancies, and shopper footfall slump by a third; which comes off the back of three years which saw 13,000 retail jobs lost, and a £3.48 billion reduction in annual turnover since 2014. Retail was already in a difficult position before 2020 and Covid, with ever high property and people costs combining with complex, intrusive, and often contradictory policies exacerbating weak economic growth.
“The next Scottish Government and MSPs will have to respond to this reality. A more coherent approach to the industry led by a retail strategy which protects ordinary consumers and provides a competitive tax system will provide a framework that can help retail to recover. The choices made by the next Parliament come at a pivotal moment for the industry and it’s 230,000 workers. The right reforms will let retail evolve to play a vital role in the road to economic recovery after Covid. Conversely, if the opportunity is lost then there could be severe consequences for businesses and communities across Scotland”.
The SRC Manifesto can be downloaded here.