The Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Tom Arthur MSP has agreed to meet a Renfrewshire MSP over the devastating news that Inchinnan based M&Co is set to close all stores by Easter.
Scotland Labour MSP Neil Bibby, who represents West Scotland, questioned MSP Tom Arthur in the Scottish Parliament.
Mr Bibby would like to see a ministerial taskforce created to support the workers and ‘lessen the blow’ of job losses. Mr Arthur said ‘a taskforce in itself might not be the best means in which to respond’.
Bibby statement and question to the minister was: “M&Co has been an iconic Scottish brand and a welcome presence on our high streets for decades.
“This is a devastating blow for nearly 2000 employees of M&Co throughout the UK, including around, I understand, 600 in Scotland and those at the HQ in Renfrewshire which is also set to close.
“I know from my own experience, and the Minister will as well, these workers have provided a friendly and helpful service to their customers over many years. If any of industry was to lose this many jobs, the Scottish Government would, rightly, be all over it.
“Retail should not be any different. As my Labour colleague, Katy Clark, has suggested, are the government considering setting up a ministerial taskforce to support these workers and lessen the blow of this devastating news?”
Answering the question, Tom Arthur replied: “Can I thank Mr Bibby for these supplementary and echo his sentiments in recognising the tremendous workforce at M&Co. I have given an undertaking [and] I am happy to consider any proposals for further action that the Scottish Government can take.
“With regards to a taskforce specifically, given that taskforce often respond on a place-based manner, given the disparate nature of the work force across multiple sites, a taskforce in itself might not be the best means in which to respond.
“However, I do not want to preclude any options at this stage, and I am more than happy to meet with the Member and Ms Clark as well to discuss in further detail what action could be taken.”
On the Minister’s point about a taskforce, Neil Bibby MSP rose to disagree.
He said: “I thank the Minister for that answer. I have to disagree. I think because of the disparate nature of the workforce right across many communities in Scotland, I think that reinforces the need for such a taskforce.
“The workers at M&Co have demonstrated excellent customer care skills and need our support to find other employment. Stores like M&Co have been the lifeblood of our town centres for decades. But high street retailers are struggling to survive against unfair competition with the online giants, rising energy costs and customers struggling in a cost of living crisis. There are nine M&Co stores alone in the West of Scotland and the Minister will be well aware of the stores in Johnstone and Paisley. In addition to helping the workers affected, what new action will the Scottish Government take to reverse the economic decline of our town centres?”
Mr Bibby said: “M&Co was founded in Paisley and is headquartered in Inchinnan, so this closure is a particularly sad day locally. Until relatively recently this was a highly successful, thriving business with stores all over the world. But these are incredibly tough times for high street retailers. We should be finding ways to level the playing field with the online giants and help good businesses where possible with challenges like energy costs and business rates.
“With the closure of M&Co, many jobs in this area, and hundreds across Scotland, are clearly in jeopardy. I know from my own experience that these workers have provided a friendly and helpful service to their customers over many years. Even at this stage, the Scottish Government should be pulling out all the stops to protect and support those workers in the difficult months ahead.”
The Minister offered to meet with Mr Bibby and West Scotland Labour colleague Katy Clark MSP to discuss a taskforce and other ideas.
Public Finance Minister Tom Arthur is also an MSP in the Renfrewshire constituency of Renfrewshire South.
M & CO went into administration for the second time at the end of last year, after closing 47 shops in 2020 after they went into administration then.
The brand has been bought by Peterborough-based AK Retail Holdings, owner of the larger sizes brand Yours Clothing, Long Tall Sally and Bump It Up Maternity.
AK Retail will not be taking on any of the M & CO physical stores or any M & CO staff.