Fairtrade Towns

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:39 pm on 6th March 2003.

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

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.