‘Is this really a suitable punishment?’

EVERYONE who bought “Vivienne Westwood” and other supposedly designer jewellery for as little as £5 from Olive Taylor at the Royal Highland Centre must have known they were not buying the genuine article.

Seeing the price tag was enough to persuade them that this was a bargain too good to miss – and to hang with the inevitable questions about shoddy workmanship and exactly where the goods came from.

The simple fact is that while some folk baulk at buying goods that don’t seem legitimate, many others do not.

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The authorities can warn as often as they like that buying counterfeit goods ultimately funds criminal gangs – the kinds that are likely to be involved in less savoury activities like drug dealing, violence and intimidation. But there will always be a large number of people who see no harm in buying a hooky DVD in the pub or some fake designer goods at an antiques or craft market.

That is why catching and punishing those involved is so important if the authorities are serious about cracking down on this illicit trade.

So what happens when a stall operator is caught with one of the biggest hauls of counterfeit goods uncovered in the Lothians in recent years? She is fined £800. The sort of profit she could expect to make in a few hours of brisk trade.

Hundreds of her shoddy goods might also have been confiscated, but is that really a suitable punishment?

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The Trading Standards officers who brought her to book must despair at the punishment handed out.

Grand designs

Congratulations to Edinburgh design student Ellen Macdonald, who will showcase her fashion creation in New York as part of Scotland Week.

Winning the competition is great news for her, but more broadly the events around Scotland Week are to be welcomed in helping to promote our country overseas and lift the horizons of individuals and businesses in the Lothians and elsewhere.

Scotland has long looked enviously at the success of other countries in promoting themselves in the US and Canada, and this event is a small but significant attempt to market the face of modern Scotland, particularly in this, the Year of Creative Scotland.

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Whether you support independence or not, there is no doubt Scotland needs to sell itself vigorously overseas in the face of increased competition.

Edinburgh and Scotland are not just about castles and shortbread. We must build on that heritage to sell a 21st-century vision of our great city; a message that talks about our successes in research, biotechnology, innovation, business and the arts.