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
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,
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."