One of the biggest concerns raised with me recently has been the rise in shoplifting in Ayrshire and across Scotland.

These concerns were raised by retailers who aren’t just struggling to handle shoplifting itself, but also the rise in violence that is directed towards their hardworking staff.

I’ve heard of numerous reports of retail staff being shouted at and intimidated by offenders.

Retailers in Ayrshire have also told me that an increasing number of their staff have been physically assaulted at work. 

I've spoken to workers who fear what may happen to them. This is completely unacceptable. No one should go to work worrying that they will be physically or verbally assaulted on their shift.

As a former manager in a supermarket chain, I know the job is difficult enough as it is, without being subjected to abuse and attack. 

In Ayrshire and across Scotland, it must be clear to offenders that shoplifting and violence will not be tolerated.

Ayrshire Today: MSP Sharon Dowey is concerned by the rise.MSP Sharon Dowey is concerned by the rise. (Image: MSP Sharon Dowey)

That’s why earlier this month, I raised this matter with the First Minister Humza Yousaf. I explained that police numbers are falling, police funding is stretched, and that the SNP Government’s approach to justice simply isn’t working.

I followed this up by asking what action the First Minister would take to protect retail workers. To my disappointment, Humza Yousaf did little to reassure retailers and staff that action would be taken.

Rather than committing to more support for Police Scotland, he claimed the problem wasn't as bad as it has been. He obviously hasn't spoken with anyone working in stores across Ayrshire because they are at the end of their tether.  

Retailers have also told me that a lot of shoplifting now goes unreported because the police simply don’t have the resources to respond immediately and investigate thoroughly.

I have written again to Humza Yousaf in an effort to convince him to take the concerns of workers more seriously and act quickly to fix this problem. 

I want to make sure that shoplifters don't act without consequences and anyone abusing or attacking people will be caught. Criminals need to know that our police will have the resources to pursue them. 

If more frontline officers were on our streets, it would act as a deterrent and help to keep people safe in stores. When crimes do occur, the police need the funding to be able to investigate and arrest offenders quickly. 

Police Scotland is overstretched and unless they get more resources, workers and retailers across Ayrshire fear that shoplifting and violence will continue to be a huge problem for retailers and staff.

The SNP must step up and sort this issue and I’ll be working hard with retailers and workers to make sure that they do.