SWA and SGF shine spotlight on economic and community costs of illicit trade
Leading industry trade bodies the Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) and Scottish Grocers' Federation (SGF) joined forces with the Scottish Anti-Illicit Trade Group (SAITG) to highlight the escalating economic and community costs of the illicit trade in counterfeit goods at a Parliamentary Reception on 15 January.
Hosted by Jenny Marra, the Dundee-based MSP for North East Scotland and attended by MSPs including Kenny MacAskill, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, the well-attended reception highlighted the ongoing joint initiative between both business and law-enforcement organisations in tackling the illicit trade that costs the economy billions of pounds a year and blights communities across Scotland.
Wholesalers, independent retailers and high-profile individuals from enforcement organisations with an interest in stamping out illicit trade also attended the reception which heard presentations from SWA president Asim Sarwar, John Drummond, chief executive of the SGF and Police Inspector Alan Dron, chair of the Scottish Anti-Illicit Trade Group.
Jenny Marra, who earlier in the week lodged a motion that the Parliament recognises the impact of illicit trade on businesses in Scotland - endorsing the "outstanding work" of the Scottish Anti-Illicit Trade Group, welcoming the Parliamentary Reception and noting the involvement of the SGF and SWA at the event - highlighted the fact that for every £1 spend on illicit goods, £1 is taken away from the businesses that "play by the rules".
She also spoke about some illicit goods being potentially harmful, stating: "You don't know where they have come from and what is in them."
Later, Asim Sarwar told the reception: "It is a fact that there are escalating financial and community costs as a result of growing illicit trade throughout Scotland.
"And the Scottish Wholesale Association, as a vocal and high-profile trade body, is delighted to have this opportunity to join forces with both the Scottish Grocers' Federation and Scottish Anti-Illicit Trade Group to shine a spotlight on what is a very worrying issue for wholesalers and independent retailers at a time when the recession is still biting and trade is already extremely challenging.
"The illicit trade of goods which have been imported illegally, or are counterfeit products, is already hurting Scottish wholesalers, leading to lost profit for our members and their retail customers. So it is blatantly clear to us that we have a reached the stage where we need to take a zero-tolerance approach to this very serious problem.
"With the support of our law-enforcement and business partners, we need to say: enough is enough. Collectively, we can help tackle this problem through raising awareness and changing perceptions. We must influence the public not to buy illicit or counterfeit products while supporting legitimate businesses. This will make Scotland a hostile environment for serious organised criminals."
The SGF's John Drummond added: "Responsible retailing is at the heart of Scotland's communities. The convenience store sector in Scotland provides over 40,000 jobs. It is at the apex of supply chains, providing routes to market for our manufacturers and wholesalers, and it increasingly supports genuinely local producers.
"All of this is threatened by illicit trade. Responsible retailers are already feeling the impact of this criminal activity and we believe that now is the time to join forces and pool our resources to effectively combat the illicit trade across Scotland. By bringing the key agencies together and by concentrating our efforts we believe that the battle can be won - the Parliamentary Reception was a very significant step towards this."
Alan Dron commented: "Police Scotland is all about 'Keeping People Safe' and this reception affords an excellent opportunity to build on the unique approach developed to reduce the scale, impact and cost of illicit trade and counterfeiting in Scotland. Criminals have no scruples - all they care about is making money and it would be naive of anyone to think they care about the consequences of selling dangerous products to unwitting consumers.
"Collectively, we can help tackle this problem through raising awareness and changing perceptions. We must influence the public not to buy illicit or counterfeit products while supporting legitimate businesses. This will make Scotland a hostile environment for serious organised criminals."
• September 2013 saw results published from a report commissioned by the Scottish Government examining public perceptions of serious organised crime in Scotland. Surveying communities across Scotland, the report indicated that almost 90% of Scots did not consider trade in counterfeit goods to be associated with organised crime.