South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has hit out at First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Phase-2 plans for retail, which will allow large shops such as IKEA to re-open, while small shopping centres in rural areas must remain closed.

The First Minister announced on Thursday that as of June 29, most shops can open their doors for the first time since lockdown measures were announced in March.

However, she said indoor shopping centres would still be prohibited from re-opening, other than to allow access to essential shops like pharmacies.

Colin Smyth believes this policy might be appropriate for shopping centres in big cities, however, it isn’t right for small shopping centres such as the Loreburne Centre in Dumfries.

He said: “In announcing the second phase for lifting Scotland’s lockdown, the First Minister raised expectations but then thwarted them.

“One area which is of particular concern is that large retail units like IKEA on the outskirts of Edinburgh can re-open, while small shopping centres like the Loreburne Centre in Dumfries can’t, except for access to an essential shop like a pharmacy.

“This policy might be appropriate for large shopping centres in cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, but it is very hard to see how it fits those in smaller towns. When you look at average footfall, it is impossible to argue that smaller shopping centres should remain closed and I would urge the Scottish Government to urgently reassess this policy.

“The consequence of a continued shut down will be that retail units in smaller shopping centres close for good, leading to job losses.

“Rural areas have already suffered a lot during the pandemic and while lockdown was essential to control the pandemic, many people in our region are still suffering the economic consequences.”

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