Letters to the editor – April 23, 2021

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[Note: first letter comprises an overall intro followed by two component letters as part of one item]

Shops reopening – a joint letter from the Scottish Retail Consortium and trade union Usdaw

Sir,

With the Scottish Government expected at the time of writing to confirm that shops in Scotland will be able to re-open on April 26, the Scottish Retail Consortium and trade union Usdaw have come together to ask Scots to play their part in creating a safe and enjoyable retail environment for other customers and shop staff.

Retailers and shop workers have worked incredibly hard and responsibly to keep customers and staff safe throughout the pandemic.

Retailers in Scotland have invested tens of millions of pounds on safety measures including plexiglass screens, queue management systems, social distancing signage and floor markings, better ventilation, cleaning and hygiene. Shop workers have ensured the nation was supplied and fed throughout the past 13 difficult months.

The reopening of non-essential shops and ability of food-to-go retailers to resume welcoming customers in-store will mark a crucial milestone for Scottish retail and the wider supply chain. Retail is Scotland’s largest private sector employer.

So-called non-essential stores have been compelled to close in Scotland for 115 consecutive days.

The SRC and Usdaw encourage shoppers to:

  • queue considerately
  • maintain physical distancing
  • wear face coverings
  • try to avoid peak shopping times
  • follow instructions and be respectful to shop staff.

Across Scotland, thousands of shops which have been shuttered for four long months are looking forward to getting back to doing what they do best, serving their customers.

Re-opening is good news for our economy, for jobs and for our local communities. It has never been more important to play our part in keeping our towns, cities and retail destinations vibrant.

Every purchase from a shop helps to support jobs in local retail and throughout the supply chain.

Retailers and their colleagues continue to work around the clock to maintain a safe shopping experience, so customers can have the confidence to return to their favourite stores.

If we all follow the necessary physical distancing and hygiene measures and show consideration to those around us, including shop staff who are doing a difficult job, then everyone will be better off.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium

The reopening of stores on Monday offers a lifeline for many retailers. That is good news in terms of helping to safeguard jobs, but the virus is still out there.

We expect employers to conduct full risk assessments, follow the agreed guidance and ensure that customers are fully informed of the necessary safety measures.

Shoppers need to play their part in helping to limit the spread of the virus and avoid further lockdowns by following the rules and respecting staff.

Regrettably, throughout this appalling pandemic, incidents of abuse towards shop workers doubled and Covid safety measures have now become significant flashpoints.

Abuse should never be part of the job and shop workers – who played a vital role in getting food and medicine into our homes during the pandemic – deserve our thanks and respect.

In January, the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted for a ground-breaking new law to protect shop workers.

Usdaw campaigned for many years to secure these legal protections and we will continue to work hard to ensure that shop workers are protected and treated with the respect they deserve.

Tracey Gilbert, Usdaw deputy divisional officer for Scotland

Oxfam needs shop volunteers

Sir,

Oxfam’s shops in Argyll and Bute have an urgent need for volunteers to help deal with an anticipated deluge of donations as they prepare to re-open from Monday April 26.

Sales from the first day of trading following the re-opening of its English and Welsh shops were up 77 per cent on 2019 figures, with it being the most successful Monday ever sales-wise for the organisation outwith Christmas periods.

Money raised by the dedicated staff and volunteers in Oxfam’s shops in Dunoon and Rothesay helps fight poverty and injustice around the world; providing people with lifesaving essentials like clean water and soap as well as the hope of a better future.

We know from the last lockdown that people will have taken the chance to have a good declutter and we’re anticipating a deluge of generous donations.

Volunteers are asked to give as little as a few hours a week of their time and can take up a range of vital roles, from serving customers to sorting donations and arranging window displays.

Each shop typically relies on a team of 30 dedicated volunteers and one or two staff, with more than 1,500 volunteers required across the country.

As well as volunteers, Oxfam stores are also appealing for good quality donations.

Protecting staff, volunteers and customers from Covid-19 remains Oxfam’s priority, with shop teams continuing to implement strict protocol, including social distancing, readily available hand sanitiser, masks and gloves for staff, screens at tills, regular and frequent cleaning, closed changing rooms and encouraging contactless payment.

In advance of shops re-opening, people are invited to register their interest online via www.oxfam.org.uk – just click on ‘get involved’.

Tom Richardson, Oxfam interim head of retail

NHS funding in Scotland

Sir,

The demands placed on Scotland’s health service by the pandemic have intensified pleas for an increase in funding for Scottish NHS.

NHS funding in Scotland comes from the block grant from Westminster. If huge sums of Scottish taxpayers’ money were not being used to pay Scotland’s share of renewing and maintaining Britain’s nuclear submarine fleet, there would be funds available to properly support the Scottish NHS. This will only be possible when Scotland is independent once more.

Susan Swain, Dunbar