In 2016, this government promised in its manifesto to create a consumer body to represent the interests of consumers in Scotland. Today, we set out our proposals for this body, and commit to put consumers at the centre of public policy and decision-making in Scotland.
The reason for this commitment is simple.
We are determined to build a fairer Scotland, one where inequality is reduced and inclusive economic growth is the norm. That’s why we have made fairness for workers a priority, and are building a social security system that emphasises dignity and respect for its users. To be complete, this tapestry must also include consumer fairness. That means tackling some of the systemic issues that harm consumers or contribute to unequal outcomes, such as those who live in poverty routinely paying more for essential goods and services.
This work is vital on one level because our citizens are all consumers and must be treated fairly. On another, it is because we cannot increase fairness across Scotland without economic growth, and growing our economy requires businesses that are willing to invest, and consumers who have the confidence to spend. Both depend on high levels of trust. Consumers and businesses must trust governments to prevent systematic unfairness and apply rules fairly, and consumers and businesses must trust one another: consumers must expect that businesses will treat them well, and businesses must expect that good service will be rewarded.
The result of increasing this trust should be businesses with the confidence to invest and innovate, and improved service, greater value for money and better buying choices for consumers. And because all consumers are citizens, better consumer outcomes should create a wider benefit of citizens with more trust in institutions, and more confidence that their decisions and actions can have an impact.
In turn, active citizens can influence how consumers behave, which can change business behaviour and support societal fairness. While price and convenience will rightly always influence buying choices, citizens can also be motivated by wider considerations. There is growing evidence that customers want to support businesses that are committed to sustainable environmental practices, pay the living wage, or support local communities. Recognising and encouraging the overlap between consumers and citizens is one way of ensuring individuals can become full participants in building the fairer country we all want.
These goals will guide our consumer policy development going forward. As always, the Scottish Government is only one part of a complex system. To be successful, we must develop a consumer body and a consumer policy that builds on the strengths of that system – that means working with enforcement agencies, regulators, and other consumer agencies. This consultation is an opportunity for a genuine dialogue, and I hope that everyone with an interest in solving the challenges we all face as consumers will take part.
Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills