THE biggest story of the past week has been the plight of students, particularly those in halls of residence.

Yet again Scottish ministers failed to see a problem coming, failed to get adequate testing in place, and tried to impose a ‘hard line’ on students not returning home.

All this was raised in parliament last Thursday, but that also saw another important parliamentary moment when the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill passed its first parliamentary stage with support from all parties.

This is a Member’s (ie non-government) Bill, introduced by my colleague Daniel Johnson MSP, with support from USDAW, the shop workers trade union.

I have backed it throughout its many years of development but, critically, the government has decided to support it, too, which means it should become law before parliament rises.

The Bill protects shopworkers from assault, threats and abuse, especially when they are carrying out age checks for drink or tobacco, as they are required to do by law.

Retail workers have been the unsung heroes of the pandemic, keeping shops and supermarkets open throughout lockdown.

Here in East Lothian we have been able to buy essentials from supermarkets and corner shops, the only problem being when some of us indulged in panic buying.

Those shops and their staff also supported our local foodbank and community efforts to support our neighbours who were shielding.

In more normal times, though, they face abuse from underage drinkers, shoplifters and frenzied Christmas shoppers.

It is never OK to treat shopworkers with anything but respect for doing their job, on which we all depend, and this Bill is a powerful reinforcement of that message.