Fairtrade Towns

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:27 pm on 6th March 2003.

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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.