The Scottish Grocers Federation is aiming to put retail crime at the top of the political agenda in the forthcoming parliamentary elections north of the border.
At its annual conference in St Andrews the federation launched its first ever retail manifesto and made a direct plea for action to Jim Wallace, Scotland's deputy first minister and minister for justice, who was the event's keynote speaker.
The manifesto has been sent to MSPs and the federation is meeting with key policy makers before the elections on May 1.
Chief executive Scott Landsburgh said: "We are launching a retail manifesto to outline the areas of major concern to our members and to suggest solutions."
The manifesto tackles issues ranging from liquor licensing reform to business rates to proof of age cards, and also the inconsistent way in which planning rules were applied ­ which meant "small stores remained under constant threat from big store developments".
On the issue of retail crime that Landsburgh said: "We have lost faith in the criminal justice system." He highlighted the results of an SGF survey which demonstrated that 80% of retail crime goes unreported; £3.5m is lost as a result of criminal activity; staff are the victims of 900 physical assaults and 20,000 threats of violence each year; and 42% of those caught committing a retail crime are not prosecuted.
Landsburgh called for the authorities to make greater use of non-harassment orders, which would go some way to solving the problems caused by persistent offenders.
In his reply, the minister welcomed the manifesto and backed the SGF's call for all Scottish politicians to endorse a No proof, no sale' message as one way of raising the issue of underage sales. He said the Young Scot card trials should be rolled out across the country by next April.
The minister said the Scottish Executive was tackling retail crime on a number of fronts. Turning to the SGF's calls for anti-harrassment orders,Wallace highlighted anti social behaviour orders as way of dealing with the problems identified by retailers.
However, the SGF believes these are not adequate for small c-store operators and it continues to press for a more effective mechanic to be introduced. The issue was again raised with the minister at the conference and the SGF says it has another meeting scheduled with Wallace at which it will be discussed further.

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