East End or Far East, faking it is a risky game

I'M expecting the Better Together fearmongers any day now to announce that UK separation will sound the death-knell for knock-offs at the Barras.

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Well, according to them, Scots will lose everything in any divorce from the Union, from TV soaps to David Bowie's approval.

So I suppose they mean that dodgy designer gear as well.

Police seized more than £2m worth of counterfeit goods at the Barras between November and January.

Everything from DVDs, CDs, and fags to designer jewellery and fashion.

I'm told the new Scotland football strip was on sale there before even Scott Brown got the first chance to model it.

Police Scotland chief inspector David Pettigrew says: "It's always been an aspect of the Barras that people tended to think of as quaint.

"If the public knew their money was going back to serious organised crime I suspect they would think twice."

Sorry, inspector, I suspect they don't think at all, and it has nowt to do with the current austerity.

No, when it comes to netting a bargain, conscience and scruples have been falling off the back of a lorry since before the Barras was just a barra.

A recent Price Waterhouse Cooper survey found that despite 90% of people believing it to be morally wrong, the only thing that troubled them about buying fake goods was the thought of losing their bank account details.

And don't for a minute think knock-offs are bought only by folk who can't afford the genuine article.

According to a report by London law firm Davenport Lyons — Counterfeiting Luxury: Exposing The Myths — one in five Britons buying fakes earns more than £50,000-a-year.

Hardly food bank customers, are they?

New figures show that three million people bought counterfeit clothes, sunglasses, handbags, watches and jewellery in Britain last year — part of a £14bn-a-year business which thrives whatever horrors Chancellor George Osborne happens to be visiting on the economy.

The global market is today worth £300bn, and an astonishing one-tenth of all global trade.

Those folk from Glasgow's leafy suburbs who wouldn't be seen dead anywhere near the Barrowland have no such social hang-ups when those markets are in Dubai, Turkey, China — anywhere, in fact, other than Glasgow's east end.

These are the same folk who shop at Primark and transfer their cheap goods into a Frasers bag the minute they're back on the street.

Not for them some Ralph Lauren knock-off displaying a two-legged Polo pony, or a Rolex watch stamped "Made in Taiwan".

No, they're after the real fakes, of a quality to match the genuine article - but at a tiny fraction of the cost.

There's no surprise that almost 70% of all counterfeit goods seized globally come from China.

But while having products made there may have made economic sense for designer labels, it has become a vicious circle, with their designs copied and offered around the world on an industrial scale via the internet.

You'll get the chance to lust over the widest range of dodgy goods ever seen in Scotland when they're showcased this Thursday and Friday at the first Anti-Illicit Trade summit at Murrayfield.

Of course, as chief inspector Pettigrew says, it's a trade with a serious side.

It's now the biggest illicit sector in the world, eclipsing the drugs trade, and is linked to organised global crime and terrorist groups.

Neither is it a trade restricted to cheap goods — which are openly on sale on eBay and Facebook — and poorly governed nations.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime highlights internet sites selling fake tyres, brake pads, airbags, sophisticated aircraft parts and high-tech IT components.

You name it, criminals will copy it, without regard to safety checks.

There is fake booze and fags and baby foods, and 80% of so-called medicines sold over the internet are counterfeit.

And who knows what's in any of this stuff?

Alcohol can contain cleaning fluids, nail polish remover and car screen wash and antifreeze.

Fags can be contaminated with heavy metals, including cancer-inducing cadmium and arsenic.

There are high levels of lead and nickel in fake jewellery and fake cosmetics contain dangerously high levels of mercury.

And according to David McKelvey, from counterfeit and piracy experts TM Eye, the base liquid of choice for phony perfumes is horse urine.

Still, most consumers would reckon manufacturers are already extracting that, what with the outrageous mark up on designer gear.

We're told not to buy the knock-offs because they're being made world-wide in sweatshops that exploit child and slave labour.

So how do you reconcile that with a Who's Who of the UK high street having been linked with retail child labour in Third World countries?

Still, according to that PWC survey, Scots seem surprisingly more reluctant than the rest of the UK when it comes to buying fake goods, with London and Northern Ireland leading the way.

I suspect we are just better at faking our answers, which brings us neatly back to Better Together.

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