I WAS alarmed to read Audit Scotland's report that half of Scotland's local authorities now employ so few trading standards officers that they may no longer be able to provide an acceptable service.

Just as much as consumers, trading standards are crucial to protect reputable traders trying to compete against the cowboys.

To the frustration of responsible builders, hard-pressed consumers increasingly opt for the contractor willing to 'lose the VAT' but more than likely to do a botch job into the bargain.

Post-devolution, consumer protection seems to have fallen between two stools with neither Holyrood nor Westminster taking clear responsibility.

With trading standards budgets being slashed, the Scottish Government should give more support to existing industry 'trusted trader' schemes such as that run by the Construction Licensing Executive.

These schemes give the consumer peace of mind that their chosen trader is properly insured, qualified and audited and will warranty their work.

But government backing is crucial to encourage more consumers to use these schemes and avoid the misery of shoddy or unsafe goods and services.

That way, we can minimise those cases where overstretched trading standards officers are left to pick up the pieces the rogue traders leave behind.

Michael Levack Scottish Building Federation