I am supporting the Protection of Shopworkers amendment to the Offensive Weapons Bill because I believe it is unacceptable for shopworkers to suffer abuse and threatening behaviour at work. Abuse and violence should never be “just part of the job”.
I am deeply concerned by Usdaw research which shows the number of shopworkers encountering abuse and assaults has increased over the past year. Analysis found that in 2017, 70% of shop workers in Scotland had been verbally abused and 42% threatened. Shopworkers should be treated with respect and able to work without fear of intimidation.
The Offensive Weapons Bill aims to strengthen enforcement measures primarily on the sale and possession of acid and knives, to reduce their availability. Section 1 – which would extend to Scotland – would make it an offence to sell a corrosive product to someone under 18.
When it comes to asking for identification or refusing sale, it is shop staff who may be attacked or threatened as a result. This is why I support New Clause 1, which would create a specific offence for a buyer to intentionally obstruct a shopworker enforcing this law. Acting in a threatening manner is included within this definition.
Unfortunately, the Offensive Weapons Bill has been postponed twice by the UK Government, reportedly because of disagreements over Brexit. I hope that this Bill will complete its remaining House of Commons stages as soon as possible, and will back New Clause 1 if it goes to a vote.
While several clauses in the Offensive Weapons Bill extend to Scotland, criminal justice is a devolved matter and so the Scottish Parliament does have its own powers in this area.
However, I do not believe the Scottish Government is doing enough on this important issue and I am proud to support the efforts of my colleague Daniel Johnson MSP and his campaign to protect workers in Scotland. Daniel has recently lodged the Proposed Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-Restricted Sales etc.) (Scotland) Bill to protect workers from abuse and violence and provide additional protections for staff involved in the sale of age-restricted items. I am pleased this Bill has received overwhelming support at consultation stage, and from trade unions and major retailers, and can now move on to the next stage.