" Social scientific research is and always will be tentative and imperfect. It does not claim to transform economics, sociology, and history into exact sciences… it can inform democratic debate and focus attention on the right questions. It can help redefine the terms of debate, unmask certain preconceived or fraudulent notions and subject all positions to constant critical scrutiny."
Capital in the Twenty-first Century, Thomas Piketty
I was appointed by Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy, John Swinney, to chair an independent Working Group on Consumer and Competition Policy, which was formed to consider how best to implement changes to the consumer and competition landscape in Scotland. I was honoured to be asked to take on the role, and am proud of what the Working Group and I have achieved together.
I have formerly chaired the General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland and been a Board Member of Consumer Futures. I am currently the Northern Ireland Member of the Ofcom Communications Consumer Panel, and Board Member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation. I come with some experience in both devolved and UK contexts. I'm mindful too that alongside experience usually sits some baggage acquired along the way. I hope that some of what I have learned from past successes and failures in consumer policy has been of use in our discussions.
This report is not a solo performance, it is the result of collaborative effort by people with diverse skills and experience from a range of public, academic, charitable and business bodies including: Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, Which?, Citizens Advice Scotland, Trading Standards Scotland, Ombudsman Services, Federation of Small Businesses and Accounts Commission. The Working Group comprised 12 members and we were assisted by five expert panels with a further 16 members. I'm grateful to all who have given generously of their time and effort endeavouring to find Scottish solutions to the needs of Scottish consumers. Thanks are due to Jamie Steed and the Consumer and Competition Policy Unit within the Scottish Government for the secretariat support provided to me. Special thanks are also due to Which?  for sharing their consumer research with us.
Our work follows on from and builds upon the Scottish Government publication Consumer Protection and Representation in an Independent Scotland  and the Scotland Bill provisions (as introduced in the House of Commons on 28 May 2015) to devolve consumer advocacy and advice to the Scottish Parliament. Scotland's Economic Strategy  also states a commitment to create a more productive, cohesive and fairer Scotland, which recognises that a fairer and more equitable society underpins a strong economy. A desire for fair and ethical competitive markets, person-centred public services, empowered and informed consumers, and effective redress when something does go wrong, have been foremost in our deliberations as we have considered our task. We have reflected on how the four pillars of consumer protection (advocacy, advice including education & information, enforcement and redress) and competition work together.
It is my hope that our deliberations and recommendations to the Scottish Government will lead to the creation of Consumer Scotland: an independent body working to ensure the voice of Scottish consumers is heard, informing debate in devolved and UK and European contexts with constant critical scrutiny which keeps asking the right questions.
Rick Hill MBE
Email: Peter Irving, email@example.com
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