Union wants urgent Scottish Government action on high streets ‘crisis’

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Shopworkers’ union Usdaw has met Scotland’s business minister to urge fresh action to tackle a “crisis” of store closures and retail redundancies.

This year has seen M&S close stores, Debenhams considering store closures, House of Fraser in difficulties and Homebase sold for £1 - with more store closures planned.

Poundworld is in administration, Toys ‘r’ Us has folded, Mothercare is closing stores and many other familiar shopping brands are struggling.

Usdaw Scottish Divisional Officer Stewart Forrest said: “There is no doubt the retail sector is having a really tough time and that is impacting on the Scottish economy, high streets across the country and our members’ jobs.

“We need an industrial strategy to save our high streets that includes retail employers, government, local authorities and shopworkers through their trade union Usdaw”.

“We explained to the Minister that the UK Government had set up a panel of retail employers, which they say will diagnose the issues that currently affect the health of high streets and advise on the best practical measures to help them now and in the future.

However, this so-called ‘future of the high streets’ panel does not include the voice of shopworkers who have tremendous experience and the best understanding what is going on, as the people in the business who deal most directly with customers”.

He added: “We want to develop an industrial strategy with key stakeholders that tackles the unfair costs ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers have that online doesn’t.

“Investment in retail staff to provide good, secure and well paid jobs is necessary to improve productivity, along with a programme of training and reskilling shopworkers.

“We are aware that not all these issues are devolved matters, but there is much that the Scottish Government can do and we hope that they will step up to the plate.”

Jamie Hepburn MSP said: “Scotland is the first part of the UK to put town centres at the heart of public sector investment decisions, targeting and prioritising resources to safeguard the future and sustainability of our high streets.

“As part of a £720 million rates relief package, we enhanced support measures for new development and re-use of vacant property in town centres and elsewhere”.