CTSI’s Scottish Branch has welcomed calls by a Member of the Scottish Parliament for more funding for trading standards.
Fiona Hyslop, a member of the Scottish National Party, said the trading standards service is struggling to recruit staff in the face of funding cuts by the UK Government.
Budget cuts have left local authorities with fewer 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 10 years, there is a deep concern for the future of the service.
Hyslop said: “”Trading standards has an ageing workforce and reduced numbers at a time when Brexit and other issues – like environmental standards and providing COVID compliance support for health and safety colleagues – are an ever-increasing burden.
“”We, as consumers, are the ones who get hit by the effects of this under resourcing.”
CTSI Scottish Branch Chair Michelle McKenna estimates at least 200 new enforcement staff are needed in Scotland and has called for investment to protect consumers and business.
According to McKenna, “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.”
Last month, Deputy First Minister of Scotland John Swinney thanked the service for its work 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 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.”