Fairtrade Towns

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:35 pm on 6th March 2003.

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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.