Fairtrade Towns

– in the Scottish Parliament at 5:01 pm on 6th March 2003.

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Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party 5:07 pm, 6th March 2003

I must first declare an interest as a former member of the steering group for Strathaven Fairtrade town initiative and now as patron of the Strathaven Fairtrade group.

This is Fairtrade fortnight and I am absolutely delighted to secure this debate congratulating Strathaven and Aberfeldy on being declared Scotland's first Fairtrade towns, particularly as I live in Strathaven and represent the town in Parliament. As a result, members will understand if I speak particularly of Strathaven. My colleague Mr John Swinney will talk more about Aberfeldy.

Quite simply, fair trade is trade that gives a better deal to those who produce the goods. It is a way of trying, despite heavily stacked odds, to make globalisation work for the poor and to reduce poverty. More than 500,000 workers in developing countries already get a better deal from fair trade through the Fairtrade Foundation. The use of the Fairtrade mark shows consumers that they are buying goods that in some measure challenge the conventional model of trade and offer a sustainable future for the producers.

Four and a half million growers and their families in 36 countries participate in fair trade and their goods are sold in 17 countries across Europe, north America and Japan. At this point, I had hoped to introduce Comfort Kwaasibea and Rijayatu Razak from a cocoa-producing farm in Ghana. However, I see that they have not managed to make it to the debate. I hope that members will be able to meet them, because they are touring the country during Fairtrade fortnight and visiting venues where Divine chocolate is sold.

Of course, Divine chocolate is only one of more than 100 food products with the Fairtrade mark that we can enjoy. People can find the label on coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, sugar, honey, biscuits, cakes, fresh fruit and juices. The Fairtrade Foundation continues to work hard to expand the product range for coming years.

Sales of food with the Fairtrade mark are rising dramatically. Some £46 million was spent in the United Kingdom on Fairtrade foods in 2001-02—that is an incredible £1.50 spent per second. Since 1999, understanding of the meaning of the Fairtrade mark has doubled from 12 per cent to 24 per cent. The UK performs very well with regard to fair trade; it is now the second largest fair trade market in the world. I am pleased that Strathaven and Aberfeldy are now playing an active part in that.

I first had the idea of Strathaven's potential as a Fairtrade town when I heard that Garstang had been declared England's first Fairtrade town. I want to put on record my thanks to Bruce Crowther of the Garstang group, who was very helpful. It was not long before the initial informal steering group organised a public meeting to test support for the initiative in Strathaven. I thank Oxfam for helping us to organise that. We got that support from the community and the movement has grown at a tremendous rate.

Many groups and individuals must be thanked for their support. The local churches, which had already been holding an annual Traidcraft fair, have been highly supportive of our initiative. I particularly thank the office bearers of the group. Paolo Quadros, the chairman, is a Brazilian chap whose enthusiasm knows no bounds. Without that driving force, we would have been hard pushed to reach our target of being Scotland's first Fairtrade town along with Aberfeldy. I thank Sandy Grant, who has retired from teaching at Strathaven Academy and is Oxfam's local representative in the town. Again, he has been instrumental in driving the project, along with lots of local primary and secondary school children. I also thank Margaret Morton, a local businesswoman, who is our secretary. She works extremely hard to get the word over and to raise support.

I mentioned the rising support and I was particularly pleased that the seven primary schools in Strathaven took part in our schools project for Fairtrade. On Saturday we held an exhibition and a poster competition, to which we had 180 entries. The level of understanding of fair trade among those primary 6 and 7 pupils was outstanding. Some of the pupils at Strathaven Academy are also working on Fairtrade projects.

None of that would have been possible without South Lanarkshire Council, which has backed the Fairtrade initiative right from the start. I particularly want to thank Councillor Jim Malloy, who gave us much support from the outset, as did Councillor Chris Thompson and Councillor Eddie McAvoy, the leader of South Lanarkshire Council.

Strathaven town has seven entrances, all of which say "Welcome to Strathaven, Scotland's first Fairtrade Town with Aberfeldy". We want to sustain Strathaven's Fairtrade status and to make sure that there are on-going events in Strathaven to promote that. Of course we will always have our major exhibitions and initiatives during Fairtrade fortnight.

The issue is not just about worldwide fair trade. There is also a local element. We are trying hard to make the link with Strathaven's farming traditions and use of local produce. As far as I know, we are the first Fairtrade group in Britain to include in its constitution support for local farming. The principle of fair pay for work applies as much to producers in Scotland as it does to producers anywhere else.

There are many different ways in which to change the world and to challenge the ways of the world. I feel that a commitment to fair trade throughout our country is one way of doing so. I hope that others will follow our initiative. While the developed world is talking about war, there are organisations and people all over the country whose principles and ethics have the potential to change the human condition across the world. I believe that those who are contented with their lives, have enough work and are fairly paid for that work have no real interest in going to war and killing other people.

I will finish with a quote that sums up everything that I want to say. At a time when we are sending £35 billion in aid to poor countries that lose £500 billion in unfair trade practices, I will quote the words of Isaías Martinez from Mexico, who says:

"We do not need charity, we are not beggars. If we are paid a reasonable price for our coffee, then we can do without charity."

Photo of Susan Deacon Susan Deacon Labour 5:15 pm, 6th March 2003

I congratulate Linda Fabiani on securing the debate. It is good that the Parliament has an opportunity during Fairtrade fortnight to discuss fair trade. Over the four-year lifespan of the session, the Parliament has had a good record of marking Fairtrade fortnight through events and motions—I plug my motion on the subject.

Several important issues need to be drawn out in the debate and they are connected with much of what was said in Angus MacKay's members' business debate on ethical investment last week. I repeat what I said then: it is vital that we take every opportunity that we can to use our purchasing power—be it individual, collective or corporate—to reflect our views and values as best we can. Supporting fair trade is the most obvious way in which we as consumers can do that.

I remember when Fairtrade products had limited availability and quality and people often tholed them on principle instead of choosing them for their taste. However, in the past decade or two, the situation has moved on dramatically. Fairtrade products are widely available and, in the main, there is a huge range of high-quality products to choose from.

It is important that the Parliament should continue to promote fair trade and that we should do all that we can as individuals to support Fairtrade products. We should congratulate and encourage the many local authorities that have supported and encouraged fair trade activities in different ways over the years.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Does Susan Deacon agree with me about the importance of cross-party working on Fairtrade initiatives? In the Lothians, West Lothian Council is working on a cross-party basis to support a steering group to ensure that Linlithgow becomes one of the earliest Fairtrade towns, if not the first or equal first. Cross-party initiatives in local authorities are important in pursuing such matters.

Photo of Susan Deacon Susan Deacon Labour

The former West Lothian District Council was my first employer, so I am more than happy to congratulate its successor council and to recognise the scope for cross-party working on fair trade and many related matters.

The Parliament is a good example of such working. It made early progress on ensuring that Fairtrade products were available in the canteen and in the members' lounge. Those steps are small, but practical. I am bound to note with regret that the Executive was perhaps not as quick off the mark to make such practical changes. Having reviewed some parliamentary answers recently, I think that there is probably some way to go. I am sure that the Parliament, too, could make more progress. I hope that the minister will tell us that moves are afoot. Fair trade is a valuable matter for us to continue to promote and I hope that all the parties will do so.

Photo of Colin Campbell Colin Campbell Scottish National Party 5:18 pm, 6th March 2003

I congratulate Linda Fabiani on securing the debate. I spent the first 25 years of my life in Paisley, which is in my region and is as near to my home town as anywhere can be. Paisley is trying vigorously to qualify as a Fairtrade town. Last year, Renfrewshire Council supported the initiative and the provost of Renfrewshire appeared in his pyjamas in bed in a shop window eating Fairtrade food to make the point.

I draw the Parliament's attention to a little Fairtrade shop in Paisley. I attended the shop's opening as escort to my wife, who is an enthusiast for fair trade, and I discovered that every other political party was represented, which shows how important uniting on the matter is. The shop is called Rainbow Turtle—I do not know the reason for the name. According to its constitution, the shop's purpose is to advance education by promoting awareness of Fairtrade goods and associated issues in the developing world among the widest possible public and to promote the purpose of charitable bodies that have similar objectives.

The shop sells a wide variety of Fairtrade goods, some from Traidcraft in Gateshead and others from many other sources. The promotion of global citizenship and international social justice—to which we would all subscribe—is among its educational purposes. The shop is completely staffed by volunteers from Tuesday to Saturday every week and has got off to a really good start in the past 12 months. Its founders are Liz and Phil Cotton, Kate Cox and Alison Patrick. A team backs them on the management committee and in the shop. Their initiative and sense of mission should be recorded.

That is all that I want to say. I crave the indulgence of members, as the fourth out of five Fairtrade events in my house is taking place this evening and I had better get there by 7 o'clock or I will be in deep trouble.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative 5:21 pm, 6th March 2003

I congratulate Linda Fabiani on securing the debate.

I believe in fair trade. Publicity is a major aspect of such issues, because people should be made aware of conditions. Arguments for fair trade that have recently been advanced by the churches and other groups have done much to raise awareness of the fact that when we buy tea, coffee or a bar of chocolate in a shop, there might be unfairness at the end of the chain because of our perhaps slightly selfish desire to drag down prices. Such unfairness exists.

Linda Fabiani referred to Ghana; a year or so ago, I met a lady from Ghana who was trying to spread the word on the matter in question. It was interesting that she complained about the huge European fishing vessels that were appearing off the Ghanain coast, which were sucking up what people had seen over the years as being their traditional crop. That is a problem that we in Scotland perhaps face now. As a result of the infrastructure in Ghana, tomato producers could not compete with cheap imports from Italy, which is a modern and up-to-date country. Wage levels and other factors might suggest to somebody who is not terribly well informed that the tomato producers should be able to sell their products much cheaper, but that is not the case. Many people in such countries find it hard to achieve a reasonable existence not only from their exports, but from what they sell a home.

I said that publicity is all-important and I congratulate Aberfeldy and Strathaven on their publicity, which has created awareness. The conditions for a town's nomination or acceptance as a Fairtrade town do not seem to be too onerous. Other towns might hear about today's debate—although I am sad to see that few people are in the gallery to listen to it—and be made aware of those conditions. I say to Colin Campbell, however, that provosts of towns are not required to sit in shop windows in their pyjamas, although that seems to have been a good publicity stunt. As I said, the requirements are not too onerous and perhaps other towns in Scotland should follow the example that has been set by Aberfeldy and Strathaven.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party 5:24 pm, 6th March 2003

I am pleased to speak in the debate and I congratulate my colleague Linda Fabiani on securing it.

I want to bring the Aberfeldy perspective to the debate, because we have heard a great deal about Strathaven. I can confirm an exclusive story: the signs that appear at Aberfeldy's various entrances—I think that the town has four entrances—say that Aberfeldy is Scotland's first Fairtrade town. It must be first equal with Strathaven but, nonetheless, the fact that it is, is very much appreciated in our local community.

I pay tribute to the work of the Aberfeldy Traidcraft Group, which has done so much to make possible Aberfeldy's participation in the venture. At a practical level, I thank Perth and Kinross Council for its assistance with signage. That council has received more letters from me than I care to remember, demanding signage for this, that and the next thing. I am pleased that on this occasion the council was able to respond so effectively.

Fairtrade fortnight has brought a number of interesting ventures into the locality. At Aberfeldy's Breadalbane Academy, which includes the primary school, the children have been selling Fairtrade sweets in the canteen; I do not know how that complies with the Executive's healthy eating project, but fair do's to them, anyway. A number of shops, including the Lurgan farm shop just outside Aberfeldy and the Co-operative Group supermarket—the main supermarket in the town— have been active in promoting Fairtrade products as a result of the venture. In many respects the venture brings together the work of communities, individuals and organisations and provides a welcome opportunity to bind our local community.

The debate gives Parliament the opportunity to mark the significance of the contribution that is made by Fairtrade activity. Although the province of the Parliament is many domestic issues, there are ways in which our Parliament and our community can do something to link with the wider international community and register our concern for the welfare of those who are in less fortunate positions than we are in Scotland today. That symbol alone is an important product of this debate.

It says a great deal for the energy of volunteers—whether they are in Strathaven or in Aberfeldy—that the project has got off the ground and I wish it every success. I hope—to echo some Susan Deacon's remarks—that the debate draws together, from all shades of opinion in the Parliament, all of our productive and positive energies and that we express clearly that the Scottish Parliament is supportive of this way of thinking and that it wishes to encourage its spread and development within Scotland.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 5:27 pm, 6th March 2003

Fairtrade gave me one of my useful political lessons when the Gyle Centre held a Fairtrade promotion some years ago. For one of the inexplicable reasons why we all do funny things, a group was planting a tree. Assorted politicians, clergy, businesspeople and others were allowed to hang on to little bits of the tree. However, the really important man who planted the tree was a footballer: that put me in my place.

Linda Fabiani deserves great credit for securing the debate on her motion and for her obvious personal commitment to the cause.

I will concentrate on the consumerist angle. We all complain that we cannot get people interested in politics, but people get interested in issues such as this. A huge number of people became involved in a campaign on the related issue of cutting the debts of developing countries. We stood in a circle around Edinburgh castle and people marched in Birmingham and many other places. Many people were enthused by the issue and their action had an effect on our Government's policy and its efforts to change the policies of other Governments.

We must try to get a similar thing going in relation to Fairtrade. Most Governments make warm noises about Fairtrade, but do not deliver. Protectionism is still an issue; the European Union is open to serious criticism, as is the United States of America and other countries. If we can mobilise consumers through activities such as having Fairtrade towns, we will harness a great deal of energy and good will in ways that will greatly improve the world and the quality of life in this country. Who knows—some of the people who are involved in Fairtrade might even become interested in politics and start to kick us about the place.

The activities in relation to Fairtrade are welcome and we should work to encourage more and more people to take part in the campaign.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party 5:29 pm, 6th March 2003

I congratulate Linda Fabiani on her long commitment to fair trade. I agree with Susan Deacon's point that, many years ago, when people bought Fairtrade goods, they could not always eat them. I remember that when I bought such products, my children thought, "What is that?" Thankfully, things have moved on and the products are much better now.

Last week, I went to a Fairtrade shop in Dennistoun called GreenCity Wholefoods, which will celebrate its 25th year in business in May. I was amazed by the quality and quantity of the food that the shop sells and supplies to other shops in Glasgow and Scotland. That shows us how near to home Fairtrade products have come. Many years ago, people had to travel to get them, but now they are available in cities such as Glasgow.

A fair trade organisation has been operating for many years—we all know it as the Co-op. The principles of the Co-operative were basically the same as the present fair trade principles. I am not being flippant, but perhaps because there used to be Co-ops on every corner we took them for granted. The Co-op started the type of fair trade society that, I hope, will begin to emerge throughout Scotland and the world.

The issue is serious: it is about stopping the exploitation of people in what is called the third world. Such people want to make a decent living for their families and do not want to be exploited. I congratulate Linda Fabiani on the motion. If, by debating it and receiving answers from the minister on how, as Phil Gallie says, there can be better advertising of and a more positive spin put on fair trade, we will have achieved something.

The debate has done wonders and Parliament should be congratulated on accepting that something can be done about the exploitation of people in third world countries. I hope that there will be more motions and answers from the Executive on fair trade and on the treatment of people throughout the world.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat 5:32 pm, 6th March 2003

I, too, congratulate Linda Fabiani on securing the debate and on her elegant contribution.

I was not a great expert on fair trade until I was eating my second hamburger at the Edderton parish church picnic last summer, when the minister's wife, Mrs Watt, fixed me with that eye that ministers' wives sometimes have and asked, "Where do you stand on fair trade?" I made appropriate noises, but that was not good enough because she wanted to know exactly what the Parliament was doing on fair trade. She sent me away to find out what the Parliament was doing about Fairtrade tea and coffee. She was right to put me on the spot because it made me think.

In my home town of Tain, the Co-op has a Fairtrade stand and I dare say that that has been replicated in other parts of Scotland.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

Two members have mentioned the Co-op. I point out that the Co-op has made a commitment that any cocoa that it uses in its products will be Fairtrade. That is to be commended.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

Absolutely right.

Sandra White is also correct that Fairtrade products do not get the response, "Yuck mummy, what is that?"—they are good stuff. Linda Fabiani mentioned honey, tea and coffee, but I want to mention the excellent wine that can be bought at Fairtrade stands. Last week, I bought a box of it and found it extremely good; the only trouble was that the box finished rather sooner than I would have liked. I will buy another one as soon as I get home.

Donald Gorrie was right to talk about people power. Fairtrade products appeal to ordinary people in a way that many other things do not. It increases one's faith in the goodness of humanity when people say that they care about fair trade and buy the products. Those people are not only from the chattering classes; people from all walks of life go to the stand in the Co-op.

When Linda Fabiani, John Home Robertson and I eventually finish the magnificent new building at the end of the royal mile, we can assume that, after David McLetchie's comments this afternoon, the Conservative offices will be somewhere in the basement and next to the garage. My serious point is that the Parliament and the Executive are doing a certain amount, but we can do more. I hope that there will come a day when lots of Fairtrade products are eaten in our canteens and dining rooms and sold in the Parliament shop.

Why do we have only a Fairtrade fortnight and why are only some shops involved? We must move on and go for the ultimate aim of making Fairtrade products available 365 days a year. What we are doing is a start. As members were speaking Gaelic earlier, let me say this: togar càrn mòr de chlachan beaga—from small stones a mighty cairn is built. In concluding with those words in Gaelic, I have guaranteed myself a brown envelope from the official report.

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh Scottish National Party 5:35 pm, 6th March 2003

Listening to the speeches so far, I have heard clear themes coming through about harnessing energy and good will and linking local action with international co-operation by individuals and families acting for the benefit of all. That is the kind of world that we should be building. I congratulate Linda Fabiani on initiating the debate and I congratulate Strathaven and Aberfeldy on becoming Scotland's first Fairtrade towns. In a friendly rivalry for the good of people throughout the world, the towns of Angus are striving to join those towns in having that status.

As a member of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, I am happy to report that the SPCB and the officials who advise us have ensured that, from the start, Fairtrade products have been available in our canteen and have been served at meetings and functions that have been held throughout the Parliament. As a long-time consumer of Fairtrade products, I welcome this opportunity to raise awareness of the products and what they represent.

International trade may seem a remote issue, but when commodity prices fall dramatically, that has a catastrophic impact on the lives of millions of small-scale producers, forcing many of them into crippling debt and causing countless others to lose their land and their homes. A recent TV news report focused on the current situation in Nicaragua, which has been caused by the fall in trading prices for coffee beans in the world market. That fall in prices has meant that workers on the coffee estates who, at present, are paid a pittance for their back-breaking labour face outright unemployment. The report showed harrowing scenes of malnutrition in babies and young children whose parents could barely afford to feed them, as well as distress among mothers and fathers who were afraid that they would soon not be able to cope at all. The one hope for the situation that was highlighted in the news report was the intervention of Fairtrade to ensure that the price that was paid for the coffee beans was above the world market price, thereby allowing the people to continue to make a living.

Today, as a result of sales to the UK Fairtrade market, more than 500,000 farmers and workers throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia benefit from the better deal that the Fairtrade mark guarantees. Fairtrade sales are increasing every year and benefiting more people, and Fairtrade fortnight gives us all an opportunity to increase those sales further by convincing new consumers that Fairtrade foods not only guarantee a better deal for third world producers but taste great and are available in a wide range of quality products.

In my constituency, the Arbroath Fairtrade group has worked hard to raise awareness of Fairtrade products, and I commend it for the excellent initiatives that it has undertaken. The group will use this year's Fairtrade fortnight to good effect. Ultimately, it seeks to make Arbroath Scotland's next Fairtrade town, a goal that recently came a step closer to being achieved when Angus Council passed a resolution supporting Fairtrade and agreeing to use goods carrying the Fairtrade mark when catering for council meetings and functions. I declare an interest, as my wife, Councillor Sheena Welsh, moved the successful resolution. I attended the recent Fairtrade breakfast, along with Arbroath councillors and church representatives, and I wish the Arbroath Fairtrade action group continued success in its work and look forward to Arbroath and other Angus towns achieving Fairtrade town status.

By altering our purchasing habits very slightly, and by taking action as individuals and in our churches, schools, councils, Parliament and—as the debate has highlighted—towns, we can all make a huge difference by positively improving the lives of people elsewhere in the world. If we do that, we can extend the principles of fair trade in Scotland and ensure that, as a country, we are doing our part for third world producers, wherever they are.

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour 5:39 pm, 6th March 2003

I congratulate Linda Fabiani on lodging the motion. The Executive welcomes the opportunity to be represented in this important debate. I also congratulate Strathaven and Aberfeldy. In Strathaven, we are generous enough to allow our signs to say "along with Aberfeldy". I am happy to donate to John Swinney a can of paint and a paintbrush so that we can sort out the signs in Aberfeldy.

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

Out of my own pocket, John—not from public money.

Members have talked about the desire of towns and villages throughout Scotland to do the same, and we recognise that contribution. I am particularly pleased that my home town of Strathaven has been included.

I can bring another aspect to the debate. For example, when I am shopping in the Co-op with the kids we get into a discussion about what fair trade means. Young people have valuable discussions about the Fairtrade logo and Fairtrade products. Young children do not automatically understand what fair trade is about, but it is possible to explain, in a few straightforward words, what fair trade is and why it is important.

I congratulate the Strathaven committee members—to whom Linda Fabiani referred—on their hard work. As well as the volunteers' role, the council's role is also to be welcomed. Local Strathaven churches also run interesting fair trade schemes. I have visited them and seen the good work that goes on.

I share with Susan Deacon and others memories of tholing fair trade products, such as Nicaraguan coffee. It was sometimes hard going, but it was worth while. The quality of fair trade products has improved. Other members referred to other important aspects. It seems that behind every SNP MSP who spoke in the debate, such as Colin Campbell and Andrew Welsh, there is a good lady who organises things back at the ranch. On the vision of Donald Gorrie in a tree—I am just not going to go there, although it is an interesting concept.

Jamie Stone and Andrew Welsh referred to the fact that the small things that we do can make a big difference. I think that the underlying message of fair trade is about the ability to make a small contribution by buying a fair trade product, which has a substantial impact on the lives of the producers. Linda Fabiani's motion has given us the chance to focus on Fairtrade fortnight, but we acknowledge that we want such a focus to continue beyond a fortnight.

As members will be aware, the regulation of international trade and international development assistance is a reserved matter, but I could not let the debate pass without putting on the record my acknowledgement of the good work that has been done by Gordon Brown and Clare Short on international trade matters that deal with fair trade, third-world debt and so on.

We welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate. I will point out later what the Executive seeks to do about fair trade schemes, which can and do make a difference, not least in raising awareness of the often difficult circumstances that small producers face. Andrew Welsh referred to the fact that the price of coffee beans in conventional markets recently fell to a 30-year low. However, under fair trade schemes, coffee producers get prices that are at least two-and-a- half times higher than those in conventional markets. That can help us understand the difference that we can make to the lives of those producers, many of whom are the poorest people in the world.

Fair trade schemes, importantly, provide consumers with choice. According to the Fairtrade Foundation, Café Direct is now the sixth largest coffee brand. That is a phenomenal fact, considering where it all started many years ago.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The minister heard from members about the excellent track record of the Scottish Parliament in promoting fair trade. However, the Scottish Executive has enormous purchasing power. I asked two parliamentary questions on the issue in November 2001, but I was disappointed to be told that the Executive does not take into account the purchasing policies of its outside catering contractors, nor the choice of fair trade in its own purchasing policy. Will the minister consider that, so that the Scottish Government can play more of a role in promoting fair trade?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

I will deal with that point later and I hope that it will be worth waiting for.

In 2001-02 alone, £45 million was spent in the UK on fair trade foods. Internationally, four and a half million growers and their families, in 36 countries, benefit from selling their goods through fair trade schemes. In choosing to buy fair trade products, we make a small contribution to helping the poorest families of the world.

Businesses and other organisations also have a part to play. As corporate social responsibility moves up the business agenda, many public and private sector organisations are getting involved in the fair trade debate, which is to be welcomed. For example, Strathaven and Aberfeldy have done so and I am sure that further Scottish towns will get involved. I wish every success to those towns that seek to become Fairtrade towns. Satisfying the five criteria requires not only shops putting the products on their shelves, but communities to buy them, organise committees and do work in schools. My family has been involved in such work, which creates a supportive environment for fair trade.

Susan Deacon and Richard Lochhead asked what the Executive is doing about fair trade. In 2001, we introduced a choice of Fairtrade coffee in the staff restaurants in two of our main buildings, St Andrew's House and Pentland House. We introduced a Fairtrade option for coffee that is served at official meetings and staff can request Fairtrade coffee when ordering hospitality.

However, by the end of April 2003 we will have introduced Fairtrade tea and coffee options in all the Executive's staff restaurants. We have also asked our catering contractor to ensure that all tea and coffee provided at official meetings is bought under a recognised fair trade label or equivalent. In other words, we will be changing our policy as a result of bringing attention to these matters.

We recognise the lobbying and work that is going on to this end throughout Scotland. In recognition of Fairtrade fortnight, we have arranged for the display of promotional posters in Executive canteens and promotional stands in all staff restaurants next week. This will allow people to sample products, dispelling the myth about poor quality and allowing Executive employees to take part in Fairtrade purchasing and tasting.

To return to the substance of the motion, the Executive believes that it is right, especially in Fairtrade fortnight, that the Parliament should pay tribute to the individuals and organisations in Strathaven and Aberfeldy, and to others who are now campaigning to become Fairtrade towns. As the motion suggests, we should also recognise the important part played by South Lanarkshire, Perth and Kinross councils.

Finally, I congratulate Linda Fabiani on bringing this matter to the attention of the Parliament. I wish all towns in Scotland every success with Fairtrade fortnight, and beyond.

Meeting closed at 17:47.