CTSI Scottish Branch welcomes MSP's warning about unsustainability of trading standards profession
The Scottish Branch of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) welcomes Scottish Parliament Member Fiona Hyslop's calls for more funding for Trading Standards. Budget cuts have left local authorities with less than 239 enforcement staff in Scotland and little capacity to train new recruits. With more than half of the profession set to retire over the next ten years, there is a deep concern for the future of this critical service.
Last month, Deputy First Minister John Swinney thanked the service for their crucial role in the pandemic to implement and advise on COVID-19 restrictions. With responsibility for product safety, EU Exit will add to the pressures on the service responsible for border checks and market surveillance.
CTSI Scottish Branch Chair Michelle McKenna estimates at least 200 new enforcement staff are needed in Scotland and calls for investment to protect consumers and business. She said, "over the past decade, the total count of companies in Scotland increased by over 50%, while Trading Standards lost 50% of its staff. We monitor and advise legitimate businesses on every product type you can imagine. These products include toys, electrical goods, biocidal products, construction products, animal health, feeding stuffs and recreational crafts. We undertake this work alongside our most traditional function - monitoring declared weights and measures from the foods we buy to the fuel we put in our car to the whisky in our pubs.
"Trading Standards enforce hundreds of pieces of legislation to protect the most vulnerable. We investigate aggressive and misleading sales practices, preventing access to age-related products like tobacco, solvents, and fireworks. It is estimated that EU Exit will lead to a two-thirds increase in the product safety workload based on importation data."
CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: "This warning coming out of Scotland chimes with our concerns for the future of the trading standards profession throughout the United Kingdom.
"Trading standards professionals across the country once again rose to challenge during the recent Avian Flu outbreaks, serving on the frontline of the response and halting a potential national epidemic that could have seriously damaged UK agriculture, all the while working under the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The value of trading standards is enormous, and the scope of its duties continues to expand, but unfortunately, sufficient investment that guarantees the service's future is yet to materialise.
"We must use this opportunity to maintain the high standards of consumer protection that we enjoy throughout the UK. CTSI is in dialogue with the UK Government and our partners in the four nations to achieve this aim by making sure its post-Brexit plans include the levelling up of consumer protection and the services that support it."
1. There is an important distinction between Trading Standards Scotland (TSS) and Local Authority Trading Standards (LATS). LATS are local authority services responsible for enforcing the full range of trading standards legislation. TSS is a standalone, specialist team employed by COSLA but funded directly by HM Treasury and Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). TSS deal with illegal money lending casework, cross-border scams, and intelligence gathering and analysis. Although LATS work closely with TSS, they are not subject to local authority control or local authority budgetary pressures.
SCOTSS workforce survey 2021 - workforcepr21.pdf (scotss.org)
2. Trading Standards Officers in Scottish local authorities advise on and enforce laws that govern how we buy, sell, rent and hire goods and services. Local authorities carry out inspections and monitor or investigate complaints; they work with businesses to help achieve compliance but ultimately instigate prosecutions or take civil actions against those who break the law. TSOs have been deeply engaged in work around the COVID-19 pandemic and are also at the frontline in dealing with the ongoing changes arising from the UK's exit from the European Union.
3. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881. It aims to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities.