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Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Wednesday, November 8, 2023


Scottish Convenience Store Sector

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Annabelle Ewing)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-10747, in the name of Gordon MacDonald, on the contribution of the Scottish convenience store sector. The debate will be concluded without any question being put, and I ask members who wish to speak in the debate to please press their request-to-speak buttons.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises what it sees as the vital importance of the Scottish convenience sector; understands that there are 5,171 convenience stores in Scotland, providing over 49,000 local jobs, which includes 95% of staff employed on a permanent contract and 42% choosing to walk to work; commends the sector for the key services that local shops provide for communities the length and breadth of the country, such as those in the Edinburgh Pentlands constituency, including, it understands, 83% offering mobile phone top-ups, 76% offering bill payment services, 47% offering free-to-use ATMs, and 27% with Post Offices; welcomes the fact that many Scottish stores also now offer online and home delivery options for customers; notes that the vast majority of shops are open seven days a week, and, in some cases, are open 24 hours a day; understands that colleagues in the UK convenience sector worked a combined total of 12.1 million hours per week between 2022 and 2023; further understands that Scottish convenience retailers have invested £62 million in their stores over the last year, and that, at a UK level, the convenience sector contributed over £10.6 billion in gross value added (GVA) and over £9.1 billion in taxes over the same period, and congratulates the Scottish Grocers’ Federation on promoting responsible community retailing among its membership, the sector generally on what it sees as its ability to thrive, and convenience stores on continuing to be, it believes, important local community assets.


Gordon MacDonald (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I thank those members who supported my motion so that this debate could take place, and I also welcome to the gallery members of the Scottish Grocers Federation, who, back in 2017, were instrumental in support of my steps to establish the cross-party group on independent convenience stores.

The most recent Scottish local shop report—“The Scottish Local Shop Report 2023”—was produced by the Scottish Grocers Federation and the Association of Convenience Stores, and it has been distributed to all members in the past couple of weeks. That annual report highlights not only the contribution of the sector to the Scottish economy but, more important, the essential contribution that convenience stores make to the communities that they serve.

Across Scotland, there are 5,171 convenience stores, many of which are open 24/7. They are an important source of employment, providing more than 49,000 local jobs for local people, from a first job for a young person to a route back into employment for someone balancing family or caring commitments, given the flexible hours that they offer. Our economy also benefits, because those retailers not only provide jobs in their own businesses but support employment across the town or city in which they are located through their use of local tradesmen, produce suppliers, shopfitters, garages and local legal and accountancy firms.

In the past year, convenience stores have invested £62 million in their businesses, purchasing refrigeration equipment, shelving, signage, lighting and new technology, again supporting employment in the wider economy. A survey by Scotland’s Towns Partnership found that 91 per cent of Scots recognised that choosing local businesses supported local jobs and employment opportunities. In addition, choosing local keeps money circulating in the local community for longer, reduces unnecessary journeys and helps to tackle the climate crisis.

Why shop local? In my constituency of Edinburgh Pentlands and across the country, 83 per cent of convenience stores offer mobile top-ups; 76 per cent offer bill payment services; 47 per cent have free ATMs; and 27 per cent have post offices. Others offer online shopping with home delivery included. The data also highlights that 36 per cent of convenience stores are in rural areas, with another 27 per cent in outlying parts of our cities and towns. Those stores provide a focal point for communities, as they are often the only retailer in the area.

The stores carry a wide range of products, and the Scottish local shop report highlights that, in an average independent convenience store, 4,735 individual products are stocked during the course of a year, including staple items such as bread, milk, toiletries and pet food. Those stores become a meeting place for locals and are therefore more than just places to shop; they are vital community hubs, with services such as post offices, parcel collection and bill payment facilities. They also provide cashback services and free-to-use ATMs, which customers might use to make purchases in other businesses nearby, thereby supporting the growth of the local economy.

The Scottish Government’s policy is to encourage local living and the development of 20-minute neighbourhoods where people can meet most of their daily needs within a reasonable distance of their home. Convenience stores are, by their very nature, at the heart of that policy, given that 51 per cent of store customers live within a quarter of a mile of their nearest retailer and 59 per cent of those customers travel to their local store by foot or bike. Because those stores are at the heart of their communities, the average customer visits their convenience store nearly three times per week. Indeed, according to the report, 36 per cent know the people who run and work in their local shop very well or quite well.

As a result of the close connection with local residents, 81 per cent of retailers have been engaged in some form of community activity in the past year. That takes many forms, including collecting for charities, providing funding for local events or sponsoring local sports teams. That close relationship between store owners and customers is highlighted in one example from my constituency. Linda and Dennis Williams have run the Oxgangs Premier store for 40 years, and now run it along with their daughter Sophie. During the pandemic, they realised that many of their customers were struggling to put food on the table, so they decided to set up a coronavirus hardship fund, using their own money to help the most vulnerable members of the local community, and asked the community to match the fund with the aim of raising a total of £500.

Audrey Nicoll (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

As the daughter of a grocer, I am utterly loyal to local convenience stores and am very much enjoying the debate.

I know that he has just started to describe this, but does Gordon MacDonald agree that local stores also have a health and wellbeing benefit? For example, if Mrs Smith who is usually in three times a week has not been appearing, staff in a store will recognise that. There is an extended benefit in that respect.

Gordon MacDonald

I absolutely agree. In addition, as some stores deliver to homes where people are housebound or have caring responsibilities, they can keep an eye on the most vulnerable in society. I thank Audrey Nicoll for that intervention—the only issue is that I have forgotten where I am in my speech now.

To the Williams’s surprise, they hit their initial target in the space of 24 hours, with the support of the local community. However, as more people became aware of the much-needed initiative to help those struggling during the pandemic, they continued to receive money and eventually raised more than £10,000.

The hardship fund was handed out in small amounts, with no questions asked, to ensure that the money was used to help as many people as possible, whether to pay for food or household bills. Their efforts made a huge difference to many in the community and they rightly received wide recognition, winning a number of awards. Those included, last month, the Raj Aggarwal trophy from the Association of Convenience Stores, which is awarded to retailers who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to community retailing over the past year, supporting their colleagues, customers and fellow retailers and representing the very best of community retailing.

The convenience store sector has faced many hardships in recent years, from the financial crash of 2008 to the pandemic, Brexit food shortages and now inflationary pressure on overheads. Earlier this year, the Scottish Government offered support by funding the go local project, offering a match-funded grant worth up to £5,500 per store for convenience shop owners to provide dedicated long-term display space for locally sourced, fresh and healthy Scottish products. Stores that took part in the initial pilot saw a 40 per cent increase in sales of local products and delivered additional local economic benefits in excess of £159,000 per store. The initiative also enabled stores to support Scottish producers and give those businesses a vital route to market, helping with recovery and regrowth from Covid-19.

At a time when households and businesses are bearing the brunt of Westminster’s cost of living crisis, it is right that we celebrate the hard work and resilience of Scotland’s convenience store sector.


Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)

I thank my colleague Gordon MacDonald for highlighting the crucial role that Scotland’s convenience stores play in all of our communities the length and breadth of the country. He has been a dedicated supporter of the sector for many years and it is right to recognise his commitment.

“The Scottish Local Shop Report 2023” is packed full of helpful facts and figures that give us a flavour of the incredible diversity of the sector and its importance to the local communities that it serves. Gordon MacDonald has shared a range of those facts to give us a sense of that, but there are a few others that stand out for me, the first of which is that the convenience store sector’s sales turnover in the UK is about £49 billion per year and is predicted to hit £50 billion by 2026. That is an impressive figure. The value and extent of the business to the wider Scottish economy certainly surprised me.

The secret is in the name, of course—it is all about convenience. As we know, the origins of convenience stores are rooted in an era when few people had cars and the supermarket model, drawing thousands of shoppers at a time to out-of-town locations, was only just emerging. Their continuing success comes from their being located where people need them—in the heart of the communities that they serve.

The report also tells us that roughly two out of every three customers who use their local convenience stores still walk to them every day. That is a remarkable success story that we often take for granted, and it is probably no surprise that, given the size and success of the sector, the supermarkets are doing their best to mirror the convenience store model and grab a slice of that business through their own multiple small shops, which seem to be ever expanding.

Gordon MacDonald also highlighted the increasing diversity of products and services that our local shops now offer in the modern era. They include things such as wi-fi, click and collect, bill paying and cashback services, as well as postal facilities, home deliveries, the facility to pick up prescriptions and key cutting. Some of those services provided a vital lifeline for many families during the Covid emergency and have, thankfully, remained in place. I do not recall any of them being available when I was a youngster getting sent to the shop every day by my mother for odds and ends, so it is a testament to how convenience stores have adapted to fast-changing needs and demands within their communities.

All of us know a local convenience store to which we turn for those essentials. One of my local stores is W & D Minto, which has operated on Dean Street in Kilmarnock since 1953—that is, for 70 years. Every day that I pass by, Dougie Minto can be seen in the shop, bringing in all the goods that we have been talking about. However, it is much more than that; Dougie, his shop and his staff are a community focal point, too. He knows everyone in the area—he knows who needs help, and he is much more of a community champion than anyone I have ever known. Long may he and his shop continue.

Dougie says that the biggest change in his time is the plummeting sales of newspapers. Technology has played a huge part in that, but so, too, I suspect, has the editorial style and content of many of today’s newspapers, which seem to be ever more extreme and out of touch with the ordinary people of Scotland.

Our convenience shops are much more than their name suggests. In many ways, they are the cornerstone of our communities, providing us with vital goods and services nearest to where we live. I hope that they will continue to offer those services far into the future.

I thank my colleague Gordon MacDonald once again for bringing the success of our convenience stores to the Parliament’s attention.


Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

I congratulate Gordon MacDonald on securing the debate. I associate myself with his motion, which I was happy to sign, and I acknowledge the work that he does as convener of the cross-party group on independent convenience stores, of which I am happy to be a member and supporter.

In his opening speech, Gordon MacDonald referred to “The Scottish Local Shop Report 2023”, which was published recently. I think that he quoted every statistic from it, so I will not repeat every one of them but will give a few highlights.

In Scotland, there are 49,000 jobs in the sector, which is a significant employment footprint. The sector pays £9.1 billion in taxes across the UK, which is a significant economic and fiscal contribution. There are 5,171 convenience stores in Scotland, and 70 per cent of those are independently owned. The sector is made up of small, often family, businesses—people, as we have heard in the debate, who work extremely hard, work long hours and provide a vital service to their local communities.

The key point about convenience stores is that they are convenient for local people. They are convenient in that they are often at the end of the street. If, as a society, we are concerned about meeting net zero targets, we want to have convenient services available to people, so having shops that people can buy their groceries in within walking or cycling distance of their homes makes a lot of sense.

As Gordon MacDonald said, convenience stores often provide a range of other services, such as mobile phone top-ups, post office services and bill payment and cashback facilities. Convenience stores mean that a range of other activities are available in local neighbourhoods, which are all very welcome.

I was very pleased to attend, as a guest, the Scottish Grocers Federation’s conference in Glasgow last month. I think that I might have been the only MSP who was there. I very much enjoyed being part of that event, hearing about the success stories and celebrating a lot of the good news in the sector, which we have already heard about.

However, during the conference, the sector raised a number of challenges, one of which was to do with business rates. Many convenience stores will be beneath the threshold for paying business rates because of the small business bonus scheme, but some of them will not—some of them will be larger and will pay business rates. A concern that was raised with me was the fact that, although retail businesses south of the border have a 75 per cent rates relief in the current financial year, that was not passed on by the Scottish Government to shops in Scotland. That has caused concern to people who are involved in businesses here.

Concern was also raised about the shambolic deposit return scheme, which I am pleased to see has been shelved for the time being. Businesses in the sector are concerned about the fact that, in due course, that scheme might come back, and about what that would mean for them and what costs would be involved.

In addition, concerns were expressed about what might come down the track in terms of restrictions on the marketing of alcohol products, because alcohol forms an important part of the range of products on offer in many convenience stores. If there were overly restrictive rules on the promotion of alcohol, as was originally suggested, that could have a really negative impact on the sector. That is another issue that we need to be careful about.

However, the biggest concern in the sector is about the rise in crime and the violence against shop workers, which has been growing. Daniel Johnson, who is not with us tonight, introduced a member’s bill on the issue to make it an enhanced offence to attack a shop worker. That was very welcome, but there are still too many attacks on shop workers.

There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of reports of shoplifting. Rather than being due to increases in the cost of living and people being in poverty, that shoplifting is being arranged by organised crime gangs that are targeting particular products and local shops. There is real concern that that is happening and that there is a lack of a deterrent. We do not have enough police around to deter such crimes, it is very difficult to catch people when they commit them and, when they are caught, the penalties that they receive are not sufficient to act as a deterrent. We definitely need to have a more effective police presence, and we need to have a justice system that properly punishes people who are caught shoplifting.

That is what people in the sector are calling for. If we support the sector, we should endorse those calls and support them in their efforts to provide more protection for people who are trying to earn a living in what can often be a difficult business.


Martin Whitfield (South Scotland) (Lab)

I, too, compliment Gordon MacDonald on securing this most important debate. It is a pleasure to follow Murdo Fraser, although I fear that he might have been looking at my speech. I am not sure how—he must have done it through the magic of the far bench.

I welcome the publication of “The Scottish Local Shop Report 2023”, because it rightly shines a light on an incredibly important element of our communities. Once upon a time, we used to talk about the banks, the police stations and the other services that were there. We used to talk about the cornerstones of our communities. Communities need to have cornerstones in order to build resilience, knowledge and understanding, and to build networks. Sadly, on so many levels, it is our convenience stores that provide all four corners to ensure that our communities can survive.

I will add two fascinating aspects to the plethora of data that has been submitted. The first relates to the location of convenience stores: 36 per cent are in our rural communities, 37 per cent are in our urban communities and 27 per cent are in our suburban communities. What other economic units can claim to have such coverage across Scotland? They sit at the heart of our communities.

We can look at the sort of communities that convenience stores serve: 39 per cent of them are isolated stores that are frequently the only option for families, 27 per cent sit on small parades, 10 per cent sit on large parades and 24 per cent are on the main streets of our cities. That shows that our convenience stores are not just part of the fabric of our communities but an essential piece of the jigsaw. That is certainly reflected in the knowledge that I have of the community in which I live and communities across the south of Scotland from stories that have been shared with me by convenience store operators and owners and by individuals.

I look back to the beginning of Covid, when people did not know where to turn or where to look. Many people went first to the shop that they go in nearly every day of their lives, and, almost to the end, they were greeted, supported and welcomed. I am aware of shopkeepers who put their hands in their own pockets for people and assisted with food provision. I am aware of shops that went above and beyond by delivering to people who could not come out of their houses, which they have imaginatively and entrepreneurially continued to do, and, quite frankly, they do it better than a lot of the large delivery services.

I trust my local convenience store to take a package from those delivery services, because I know that it will be safe, that I can pick it up from someone I know and that it will be there when they say it is there. We cannot overstate the value of our convenience stores, and we should pay tribute to every one of them and to the staff who sometimes struggle because of the challenges that I will come to shortly. The fact that they are there when our people and communities need them is a great tribute to them, and we have a responsibility to allow those economic vehicles to continue.

That allows me to turn to some of the challenges that Murdo Fraser raised, including business rates, energy bills—many convenience stores run refrigerated units and were suddenly thrown when their bills came up for renewal—and the deposit return scheme, which might well come back.

I will spend a small part of my time on violence and theft—because that is what shoplifting is—from such premises. I find myself in slight disagreement with Murdo Fraser as to the reasons behind that, but I am not sure that there would be value in going into that in this debate. Shopkeepers have said to me, “I let that person take that thing because I knew that they didn’t have it and they needed it.” I am also aware of shopkeepers who, having gone to the police with closed-circuit television footage and the name and address of the person who has taken stuff from the shop, have received little or no support. We are talking about small shops that cannot survive if they continue to be exposed to that sort of theft.

On a sad note, I mention the violence that those shops and the people who work in them face. In part, it is due to the pressures that exist in society and, in part, it is to do with a change in attitude. I am aware of situations that have started in shops and had the most horrible consequences, and I am aware of people who have given up working in shops because of the violence that they faced.

As I said at the beginning of my contribution, convenience stores are a crucial part of our communities, and if we want to serve them in the way that they have served us for generations, we need to find a way to support the workers and the owners.


Pam Gosal (West Scotland) (Con)

I am honoured to take part in today’s debate on the contribution of the Scottish convenience store sector, and I thank Gordon MacDonald for securing it. Although the member’s motion talks in great detail about the sector’s contribution to the economy, I would like to spend some time discussing the importance of Scottish convenience stores to our cultural and social fabric.

I am the proud daughter of a former shopkeeper. Many members seated here today will undoubtedly have an image in their mind of their neighbourhood convenience stores—the welcoming faces, the familiarity, the dependability and the constancy. Convenience stores are like little life savers when we are in a hurry or just need a quick fix but, as the daughter of a shopkeeper, I know that they are much more than that, too.

Convenience stores are the staple of communities. For many, going to one can be a light-hearted outing to pick up goods, socialise or discuss neighbourhood drama, but for some it is a sanctuary. As many members are aware, I frequently bring up the comfort, safety and open ear that my mum provided to victims of domestic abuse. It was in my family’s store on Argyle Street in Glasgow that she did that, and I know that she will not be the only shopkeeper to have done it.

The relationship that is forged over decades between customers and shopkeepers, particularly in the UK, is something to be celebrated, and I think that community bonds are the reason why Scottish convenience stores are so successful. As well as that, they are champions of the local community, with 65 per cent collecting money for a local or national charity, 33 per cent donating to a food bank and 17 per cent providing funding or in-kind support to a community event. They also provide around 49,000 secure local jobs. It is without question that Scottish convenience stores are socially and economically invaluable, but the question is whether the Parliament is doing all that it can to ensure that the industry reaches its full potential.

Before I conclude, I will mention Scottish retail crime, which my colleague Murdo Fraser touched on. The amount of retail crime that the convenience industry is currently dealing with is astounding, and our legal system is doing very little to help. Our courts and police personnel are in disarray. These days, organised crime groups and criminals think that they are untouchable. Last week, at the UK retail breakfast round-table event held in the Scottish Parliament, we heard that thugs routinely go into stores, take what they like and leave. Some shopkeepers do not even bother reporting the crime any more, due to fear of retribution and the fact that the police will not attend or will arrive too late.

I acknowledge that that is not directly the fault of our police service but is a result of chronic underfunding of Police Scotland, a lack of resources and workforce shortages. Nonetheless, it is a huge problem, and the Scottish Government must urgently address the situation. Small businesses cannot sustain continued losses. We heard from Martin Whitfield that the businesses are very little and every penny counts in their profit margin. We need to do much more to help micro and small businesses.

Scottish convenience stores are vital to the country’s economy and to society. They are evidence of relationships that have grown over decades between store owners and their patrons. Although the future of the Scottish convenience sector seems promising, the SNP needs to recognise that our retail sector is beginning to exhibit signs of a deficient justice system. A combination of fewer officers and a soft-touch justice system is allowing criminals free rein. The SNP must act urgently to address that. Today’s motion has been an opportunity to be up front about the challenges that the Scottish convenience sector faces. I hope that real actions will be taken to support the sector following this debate.


The Minister for Local Government Empowerment and Planning (Joe FitzPatrick)

I thank Gordon MacDonald for bringing the motion to Parliament and members for their contributions highlighting the importance of the retail convenience store sector to Scotland. These debates are always enlightening. I certainly was not aware that the Parliament had at least two daughters of grocers: Audrey Nicoll and Pam Gosal. It is always useful to hear more about people’s experiences, and I am sure that Pam and Audrey will have many stories to tell.

Without doubt, our local retailers and convenience stores provide vital local accessible services and flexible employment opportunities. As Gordon MacDonald and others have said, they contribute so much to their communities, often acting as the only local hub in towns, villages and neighbourhoods.

Willie Coffey highlighted how they have taken on many of the traditional roles that we would have seen elsewhere on the high street, as society has adapted to changing trends and the digital age, whether that be postal and banking services or energy and communication needs, which is in addition to their food and drink offer. It was useful to hear about the pilots for the go local project.

Convenience stores are crucial to community resilience, building social interaction, fostering a positive sense of community and supporting active and vibrant local economies. It was good to hear several members mention the contribution of grocers across Scotland during the pandemic.

I think that we all want our town and neighbourhood centres to be diverse, sustainable and thriving places where communities can enjoy living and working. We want our towns and town centres to be vibrant, creative, enterprising and accessible, and to be places where people can meet most of their daily needs within a reasonable distance of their home, enabling them to live better, healthier lives and to support our net zero ambitions. In relation to reaching net zero, Murdo Fraser mentioned that convenience stores are within walking, cycling and wheeling distance of most of our population.

Martin Whitfield

One of the statistics that I mentioned is that 39 per cent of convenience stores are located in isolated areas, where they are literally the only available store for people. How will the minister support such stores to reach net zero while ensuring their basic survival?

Joe FitzPatrick

We all have a role in supporting our local stores, particularly if they are the only hub in an area and provide a range of services. I will come on to talk a little about some of the work that we are doing. It is important to be clear that this is not—it never is—a party-political issue. I work closely with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities spokesperson Councillor Gail Macgregor, who is a member of Mr Fraser’s party, on this issue. We all realise that the sector is of huge importance to our economy but is of even greater importance to our local communities.

Clearly, local convenience shops and retailers play a key role in ensuring that people can live well locally, ensuring access to food and the plethora of services that we have highlighted. Members have also mentioned the really important services that many of those stores provide for people who have ability or disability issues, who are infirm or who lack access to transport.

As Gordon MacDonald said, convenience stores are massively important to local jobs. In many cases, they offer a range of flexible hours. They can also offer skills development and flexible and successful careers from a first job in a local shop to the potential of distribution, supply chain businesses, large stores, ownership or management. Those are real opportunities for people in local communities.

To return to Mr Whitfield’s point, convenience stores can continue only if we support them. That is why the Scotland loves local scheme is so important. I encourage people to consider the fact that, if they spend money locally, they are supporting not only the local shop but their friends, family and neighbours, which is important.

I am mindful that I am taking a bit of time, so I will touch on one or two of the challenges that members rightly raised. Murdo Fraser and Martin Whitfield both talked about non-domestic rates. We obviously have to go through the budget process, but it is important to remember that, in last year’s budget, the big ask of the Scottish Government was freezing the poundage rate. Scotland managed to freeze the poundage, so we now have the lowest poundage in the UK for the fifth year in a row, with a package of reliefs that is worth an estimated £749 million.

I contend that we provide the best support across these islands to retail business, in particular those at the smaller end of the spectrum. However, I recognise the challenges that have been raised, which is why the new deal for business group has established a consultative sub-group to advise on non-domestic rates. Those discussions are being taken forward by the Minister for Community Wealth and Public Finance, and decisions clearly have to be made in time for the budget.

Several members raised the issue of crime. Murdo Fraser and Pam Gosal talked in particular about the challenges around organised crime. That is, without question, a serious issue—it seems to be developing, and we need to work together on tackling it. The Scottish Government and its partners in the serious organised crime task force are fully committed to tackling serious crime in all its guises, and reducing the harm that it causes to our communities. Partners in that task force will use every means at their disposal to disrupt the activities of organised crime groups and hold them to account for the harm that they cause to communities and businesses, and, in particular, to the most vulnerable in our society.

However, I tend to agree with Martin Whitfield that there are other factors at play. Last month, the First Minister cited Dr Sinéad Furey, a senior lecturer in consumer management and food innovation at Ulster University, who was very clear that “stealing to eat” has taken place

“in previous times of ... economic downturn”.

While there is no suggestion that that is the only driver, there are clear concerns right now about the impact of the cost of living crisis. Of course, that is never an excuse.

Mr Whitfield mentioned violence against retail workers, in particular, which can never, ever be acceptable. The Parliament voted to pass the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act, which came into force in August 2021. Statistics on that are just coming through, but the statistics from August 2021 to August 2022, which were published just last week, showed that 27 individuals were prosecuted under that legislation, 26 of whom were convicted—a conviction rate of 96 per cent. It is important to note that 50 per cent of those who were convicted received a custodial sentence, which highlights the serious nature of the offence. As the minister with responsibility for retail, I take that area really seriously, and the retail industry leadership group will look at doing a deep dive to see what more we can do collectively to deal with that challenge.

I see that time is upon us, so I conclude with a huge thank you to our convenience sector for the vital services that it provides to our communities across Scotland. I also extend my thanks, in particular, to the Scottish Grocers Federation for promoting responsible community retailing among its membership.

That concludes the debate.

Meeting closed at 18:04.