Retail Strategy Steering Group minutes: November 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 18 November 2021.

Attendees and apologies

  • Tom Arthur, Minister for Public Finance, Planning & Community Wealth
  • Chris Brodie, Head of Skills Planning and Sector Development, Skills Development Scotland
  • John Brodie, Chief Executive, Scotmid Co-operative
  • Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, Board member, Scotland Food and Drink and Founder of Genius Foods
  • Reuben Chesters, Project Manager, Locavore Community Interest Company
  • Robert Deavy, Organiser, GMB
  • Jack Evans, Scotland Policy and Partnerships Manager, Joseph Rowantree Foundation Andrea Glass (on behalf of Katie Hutton absence)
  • David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium
  • Andrew McRae - Policy Chair, Federation of Small Business (FSB)
  • Mark McCullen (on behalf of Lindsay Methven)
  • Andy McGeoch, Chief Executive, M&Co
  • Lindsay Methven, Director of Place, Scottish Enterprise
  • Chris Morris (on behalf of Tracy Gilbert)
  • Emma Parton, Director, The Highland Soap Company
  • Neema Rathod, Policy Advisor, Scotland Office
  • Professor Leigh Sparks, Deputy Principal, Stirling University
  • Colin Smith, Chief Executive, Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA)


  • Debbie McCall, Local Economic Development, SG
  • Catherine Brown, Local Economic Development, SG
  • Anne Buchanan, Local Economic Development, SG
  • Rowan Smith, Local Economic Development, SG
  • Celeste Wilson, Local Economic Development, SG
  • Tom Lowry, Local Economic Development, SG


  • Elliott Fulton, Local Economic Development, SG


  • Tracy Gilbert, Regional Secretary, Scotland, Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW)
  • Fiona Richardson, Chief Officer, Trading Standards Scotland COSLA
  • Andrew Murphy, Chief Operating Officer, John Lewis PLC
  • Katie Hutton, Director of National Training Programmes, Skills Development Scotland
  • Kathy Murdoch,  Centre Manager, Buchanan Galleries
  • John Lee, Head of Policy & Public Affairs, Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF)
  • Luke McGarty, Policy & Public Affairs Adviser, Scottish Grocers’ Federation

Items and actions


The Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth, Mr Arthur, welcomed members to the sixth and final meeting of the steering group, welcoming the continued input from members throughout the steering group term, building a foundation for the future work of the Industry Leadership Group (ILG) between government and the sector.

The retail strategy will be cross cutting, aligning closely with the National Planning Framework (NPF) and National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET).

The Industry Leadership Group (ILG)

Timescales for the actions of the strategy, including frequency of meetings for the ILG, will be helpful.

Creation of ILG supports importance of the sector to the economy and will allow early engagement on policy development.

A number of members of the Steering Group indicated that they would be happy to be considered for ILG membership.

Some actions for the ILG focus on work already in progress across the sector, e.g. on Fair Work and on sustainability, and it will be crucial for the ILG to work in alignment with those established plans.

Composition of ILG membership will be crucial to ensure actions are balanced in addressing the different challenges affecting the sector, and a question was raised if the composition of the membership will be dictated by commitment to upholding the values mentioned in the strategy.

The ILG will help to critically identify with industry how best to inform the Skills Audit and how to form an action plan from the findings.

Part of making the skills audit is having the right people around the table to then work with those in the skills system to make sure it is dynamic and responsive, and then can work with partners in all the different education systems to look at what we need to do collectively to improve skills for the retail sector. In developing a skills plan, the hope is it will stimulate local provision to support the delivery of those skills or at least to recognise where opportunities are in the retail sector. It will then promote retail to skills delivery services and to the careers promoters too.

In the skills audit and action plan process, making sure we have a clear employer voice is crucial in order to respond to evidence based industry demands.

Throughout the strategy document and in the main actions and focus of the ILG, more reference should be made to the sector as vibrant and prosperous.

The ILG and delivery plan should clearly designate responsibility for each action and where accountability will lie.

A question was raised on what a Fair Work Agreement might look like in practice. Officials confirmed the Fair Work Agreement would be informed by the ILG, looking at how best we can embed Fair Work practices in the retail sector and for them to be widely adopted.

Further actions and publication

Excellent opportunity for retailers to work hand in hand with the food and drink industry, shortening the supply chain and making it as efficient and sustainable as possible.

Fair Work section in the strategy should be reviewed to ensure consistency of tone throughout.

Suggestion of child poverty targets being introduced in the strategy and looking at how strategy will affect single parents and parents with young children.

In light of changes in the labour market due to the pandemic and Brexit, both which have caused staff shortages, improvements to Fair Work could ensure that retailers could attract new employees.

A point was raised on the importance of aligning current work in the sector with new work stemming from the retail strategy (for example, the Scottish Retail Consortium’s Roadmap to Net Zero).

Question raised as to the number of headquartered retailers in Scotland, and what lessons could be learned, if any, from that information for the strategy.

The links to other areas of ongoing policy work should be strengthened across the strategy.

Members suggest Scottish branding related actions useful, could capture current appetite to build on strong local supply chains.

Scottish Wholesale Association has recently published its roadmap to decarbonisation and would be happy to share. Decarbonising transport across many sectors (those that use freight trucks, for example) and facilitating collaboration will be useful. 

The approach to delivering actions of the strategy will be important, considering how businesses will be able to implement the actions successfully.

Could be more mention of smaller businesses and retailers and their contribution to the sector.

Also make more on retail businesses as being at the heart of our local communities.

There already exists a varied landscape of initiatives that businesses are encouraged to sign up to, will be important to consider how those align with strategy actions.

Members were keen to support actions relating to the exploration of repurposing of vacant buildings and maintaining the importance of entrepreneurial spirit in the sector.

Additional points

On the rising costs facing retailers, it was noted that the retail strategy does not sit in isolation, as sectoral challenges and pressures are also being addressed in the response to the Town Centre Action Plan and the draft National Planning Framework 4, all of which will be explicitly linked to in the final retail strategy.

Members asked for a timeline for feedback and for publication.

Officials to provide a closing date for feedback, but the date for publication is not yet set but will follow the publication of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

Recap and next steps

Mr Arthur extended his sincere thanks for time given to the steering group and engagement, which has set the tone for work between Scottish Government and industry going forward.

Further observations and comments received by the members days will be incorporated into the document as it continues to be developed.

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