Retail sales in Scotland show annual increase

Retail sales in Scotland are up on last year, but the performance north of the border is not as strong as the rest of the UK, new figures have revealed.

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Official statistics from the Scottish Government for the first three months of 2014 showed that the volume of retail sales grew by just 0.1% over the quarter and were 2.4% higher than the same period in 2013.

Meanwhile, the value of retail sales fell by 0.1% in the period January to March, but was still 2.5% higher than a year ago.

But in the UK the volume of retail sales grew by 0.7% in the first quarter of this year and were 4.2% higher than the same period in 2013.

At the same time the value of retail sales across the UK as a whole increased by 0.5% over the period January to March, a rise of 4.6% on the previous year.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said the "modest upwards trend in retail sales" in the last 12 months mirrored the results of its surveys.

He called on politicians to "keep a tight lid" on costs such as business rates in order to boost the sector.

Mr Lonsdale said: "Going forward, retailers will be buoyed by recent news that household income has finally caught up with inflation for the first time in nearly six years.

"The crucial factor is whether family finances continue to improve and also translate into higher levels of confidence and more transactions.

"Government can assist the industry through supportive policies which keep a tight lid on those costs under its control and which impact on retailers, such as business rates, taxes and regulation."

Finance Secretary John Swinney said the figures in the latest retail sales index for Scotland showed that "performance has continued to grow over the past year, highlighting steady signs of economic growth".

But he argued independence was needed for Scotland to "secure stronger levels of economic growth".

The retail sales figures come in the wake of recent GDP figures which showed the Scottish economy grew by 1.6% during 2013, with Mr Swinney hailing this as the "fastest annual growth since 2007".

He also pointed to employment reaching a record high of 2,575,000 and strong growth in manufactured exports.

"This continued growth in Scotland's economy is helping to create more jobs and opportunities for the people of Scotland," the Finance Secretary said.

"We are committed to maintaining and building sustainable economic growth in Scotland and delivering the most competitive business environment anywhere in the UK.

"However, it is only with independence that we could create a genuinely appropriate set of complementary policies - in relation to taxation, innovation and labour market regulation - to secure stronger levels of economic growth and job creation from which everyone in Scotland would benefit."

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