– in the Scottish Parliament at 4:42 pm on 19th November 2003.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 4:42 pm, 19th November 2003

The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S2M-502, in the name of Sarah Boyack, on Fairtrade.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament warmly welcomes moves by the City of Edinburgh Council to endorse the Fairtrade Towns Initiative supported by organisations including Oxfam, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, Traidcraft and the World Development Movement; pays tribute to the Fairtrade Foundation that exists to ensure a better deal for marginalised and disadvantaged producers in developing countries and to ensure that products marked with the Fairtrade logo meet internationally recognised standards of Fairtrade, and acknowledges the commitment of local authorities, churches, schools and universities across Scotland that are working towards achieving the Fairtrade mark.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour 4:44 pm, 19th November 2003

Fairtrade is a way in which we can all get involved in helping to provide direct support to reduce poverty in the developing world. I welcome the initiatives that have been taken by the City of Edinburgh Council to make Edinburgh a Fairtrade city, building on a lot of work by organisations such as Oxfam, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, Traidcraft and the World Development Movement. It is important to put that on record.

Every one of us potentially will spend around £1 million in our lifetime. That is a huge amount of resources. If we can use some of that on products that carry the Fairtrade mark, such as coffee, chocolate, tea, honey and bananas, we will directly help to ensure that farmers in the developing world are paid a fair wage without exploitation. The Fairtrade mark guarantees a better deal for producers in developing countries. The Fairtrade Foundation's aim of tackling poverty enables disadvantaged producers from poor countries to receive a better deal. It means that they can afford to educate their children and that they will have better working and living environments. It also means that consumers know that they are buying goods the production of which has not used child labour.

A Fairtrade city is one in which a community has signed up to support fair trade and to support disadvantaged farmers and workers in developing countries. Every community—whether it is a church, a school, a college, a university, a town or a city—can help to raise awareness and be part of the movement to support fair trade. In such a community, Fairtrade products will be widely available, bought and used. A commitment will also have been made to build support through promotional and educational activities.

I got involved four years ago to the month, when I wrote to the then Presiding Officer asking him to ensure that we had Fairtrade tea, coffee and chocolate in the Parliament's canteen. A lot of members will remember that we had a visit from representatives of the fair trade movement. They arrived with Fairtrade chocolate bars—which tasted excellent—jars of coffee and tea bags. Making a statement seemed like such a simple thing for us to do as Scottish parliamentarians in our own Parliament. I was delighted that Fairtrade goods were introduced to the canteen. I suspect that, since then, hundreds upon thousands of cups of tea and coffee have been sold and drunk in the Parliament.

In the last session, we debated the progress made across Scotland in establishing Fairtrade towns. That progress continues and this debate marks the progress made with the sign-up of Edinburgh, our capital city.

I will rehearse the five Fairtrade city goals. It is important that we recognise them, because everyone in the chamber can go back and encourage their local authority to sign up. First, the local authority must pass a resolution supporting fair trade, and must agree to serve Fairtrade coffee and tea at its meetings and in its offices and canteens. The City of Edinburgh Council passed a motion in support of fair trade at its meeting on 16 October, which had cross-party support. I am proud to say that the initiative was taken by the Labour party and by our executive member for finance and sustainable development, Maureen Child, but it had cross-party support.

In a sense, signing up was the easy bit for Edinburgh. The hard bit is convincing shops to sell Fairtrade products and convincing cafes, restaurants and bars—of which Edinburgh has a plethora—to sign up to the campaign. It should be easy for local people in Edinburgh to find Fairtrade products as they do their everyday shopping in health food and wholefood shops, supermarkets and Fairtrade shops. In my constituency, the One World Shop in St John's church in Princes Street, the Palestinian shop Hadeel in St George's West church, and a number of supermarkets already stock Fairtrade coffee and tea.

The third step is to get at least 20 other local businesses and organisations to sign up. Those can include schools, colleges, universities, large offices and organisations.

The fourth step is to get media coverage. We need popular support for the campaign and we need the media to get behind it. The organisations that choose to sign up to the campaign will get positive publicity, which is a key benefit of their involvement.

One of the key things that we have to do is the fifth step: to establish a local fair trade steering group to ensure that there is a monitoring process, so that we have an annual assessment to see how we are doing in Edinburgh in meeting the five goals.

Colleagues will already know that towns across the United Kingdom have signed up. Cities such as Newcastle, Nottingham, Croydon, Chester and Plymouth are signed up to fair trade. We have already marked progress in Scotland in towns such as Strathaven and Aberfeldy, and Aberdeen has also signed up. Edinburgh is not the first, but as it is our capital, I hope that it will be an important symbol.

I particularly welcome the groundbreaking work of the Co-operative movement in the UK. I highlight the Co-op's work because, as members know, last week it became the first supermarket to convert its entire own-brand coffee stock to Fairtrade coffee. Members will have met Co-op representatives when they visited the Parliament last week. The Co-op has taken a huge step. My colleague Johann Lamont has lodged a motion of congratulation and I hope that all members will sign it.

The Co-op's work builds on the conversion of all its own-brand chocolate bars to Fairtrade last year, so what I described is not a one-off or a quick hit. That step is a real development. The Co-op is using its purchasing power to make a change in developing countries.

For coffee that is sold with the Fairtrade mark, coffee growers receive a fair price, which is currently double the global market price for some coffee beans. Under conventional agreements, coffee growers receive just over half the cost of growing beans, which means that, in effect, they subsidise our coffee drinking. Harriet Lamb, who is Fairtrade's executive director, described the situation well when she said:

"Most people love coffee, but they would be appalled if they knew how bad life is for coffee farmers in many countries".

In Nicaragua, former coffee workers now beg by the road. Earlier this year, thousands of them took part in a march of the hungry, during which 14 of them died. We are discussing a tough issue for people in developing countries. The poverty that coffee workers have experienced is due to the dramatic fall in world coffee prices, so the Co-op's decision will help some coffee co-operatives to build a better future. It gives us, as Britain's shoppers, a choice and it sends a wake-up call to the worldwide coffee industry.

Earlier this week, I spoke to students who are members of the University of Edinburgh's people and planet group. They are running a campaign to sign up the university as Scotland's first Fairtrade university. They plan to go further than the only Fairtrade university in the UK—Oxford Brookes University—because they want Fairtrade coffee not only to be available, but to be the default coffee. When people ask for coffee, they will be given Fairtrade coffee. If they really want another coffee, they will have to ask specially for it. That would be a superb move forwards.

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative

I heard what the member said about chocolate in Co-operative supermarkets and about default coffee. Is it the intention that that should be exclusively the choice, so that no choice is available other than what the member calls "Fairtrade" coffee?

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

An exclusive choice is not a choice. It is intended that a choice of coffee will be available, but that the average coffee will be Fairtrade coffee. I welcome what the students are doing. The university manages to drink its way through 1,700kg of coffee a year, so it has much purchasing power. The students' argument is that 1p or 2p extra per cup could make a difference to people's lives, and that is a wonderful message.

Today, I hope that we will build support among people in all sorts of organisations, including key public sector organisations such as local authorities and health boards. Many will know of Unison's campaign to improve the quality of our food. The union wants fair trade to be part of that agenda.

Much work is being done and there is much more that we can do. We should ensure that the Parliament and the Executive support fair trade. Last year, we heard about the moves that the Executive has taken to promote Fairtrade tea and coffee in the Executive. I hope that the minister will talk about how he intends to broaden that procurement change to other public sector organisations and to build on the partnership commitment to a co-operative development agency.

Much is being done and there is much more still to do. As our capital city, Edinburgh is taking the lead. I hope that that will have a ripple effect throughout Scotland. I am sure that the interest of the members who are present tonight will help to develop the campaign. I am delighted to have secured a debate on the motion and that so many members have turned up for the debate. Let us take the campaign another step forward.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat 4:54 pm, 19th November 2003

I last spoke about fair trade in Linda Fabiani's members' business debate towards the end of the previous session. Then, I spoke of being encouraged by a Church of Scotland minister's wife to get into Fairtrade products. I was unaware that the debate was coming before us, but only last week I went to buy my Fairtrade coffee and I simply could not get over the choice that is available at the Co-op. I totally applaud Sarah Boyack's remarks about the Co-op. I have a divvy card too—here it is.

I congratulate Sarah Boyack on securing the debate. I say that slightly tongue in cheek, given the thrashing that her team gave my team in the quiz last night. If I am not mistaken, her team went on to win, but I will forgive her anything.

We can contrast the situation at the Co-op today with the ugly, market-driven 1980s. [Interruption.] I do not know where Mr Monteith is coming from, but his early intervention on Sarah Boyack's speech was more like someone breaking wind in the manse. It was singularly inappropriate—perhaps he would like to develop that one.

The Co-op puts people before profit, which is absolutely laudable. It is also worth praising the role of the churches in Scotland. They have led the campaign from the very start.

In building on the idea of Fairtrade cities and towns, Sarah Boyack is right to make an issue of the need to take the campaign further, so that it becomes uppermost in every person's mind. We need to take the campaign into our schools and households so that people will go further and seek out Fairtrade products. I say to Sarah Boyack that, as well as Fairtrade coffee and bananas, there is very good Fairtrade wine to be had. I earnestly recommend it to her.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

Does the member agree that the next step forward could well be to support agencies such as Transparency International in their work in having transparency in all trading practices and deal making? Is not that an area into which the Scottish Executive, especially with Scottish Development International, could direct some of its effort?

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

Indeed. I know that Jeremy Purvis—and Sir David Steel—take a particular interest in Transparency International. Unless I am mistaken, we are talking about getting rid of backhanders and—I am covered by parliamentary privilege—the bribes that so often snooker attempts to create a level playing field.

I want to broaden out the debate a little by talking about the Farm Crisis Network. Although this interesting organisation has a long way to go, it is trying to bring fair trade principles into this country so that small farmers can sell their products to consumers at a fair price.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I cannot miss the opportunity to give Strathaven another plug. Members might be interested to know that, when Strathaven drew up its constitution for Fairtrade town status, it had the only fair trade constitution that applied fair trade principles to home producers. Indeed, that might still be the case. That measure is important.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

That is welcome news.

Fair trade is not an easy subject. How do we deal with the issue of United Kingdom subsidies, for example? However, fair trade is a goal that is worth achieving. If we go for raw market forces and raw globalisation, the little guy in central America gets only 8 cents as opposed to 8 dollars, which is what people have to pay for a pound of coffee in the States. It is the little guys who lose out.

I also believe that, if we think about the subject carefully, we can deliver something for our own farmers. We need to get around the backs of the supermarket multiples. If one asks where the subsidies in this country are going, the answer is that, in the end, they form a large part of the supermarkets' profits.

I congratulate Sarah Boyack on her debate today.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party 4:59 pm, 19th November 2003

I thank Sarah Boyack for securing the debate. We cannot emphasise these issues too often. As a result of hearing about Strathaven last year, our local community attempted to discuss the question of the businesses in our village using Fairtrade produce. However, it became obvious that, in our fragile economy, people find it difficult to buy Fairtrade products. I am glad that the Co-op might make that easier in some cases, but other Fairtrade products are much more difficult to get—I am thinking of the basic products that people who run tea rooms require.

In our initial discussions with people, we found that the fragile state of our local economy made people less than willing to have a go. I hope that we can ask those people to rethink their approach and join in with what Edinburgh is doing just now and what Strathaven has already done. However, people in Edinburgh itself will find it impossible to run their small businesses unless they get the cheapest products.

That is the nub of the problem both at home and abroad. The idea of fair trade is hampered by the neo-liberalism that has narrowed down both the number of products and people's choice and which has excluded many of the most vulnerable people that we are speaking in support of tonight. It is important to recognise that, in the first place, farmers must be able to choose to do what they want to do. After all, sustainable farming offers the degree of quality that consumers demand and involves a social dimension, economic efficiency and respect for consumers and nature. It is up to those of us who seek a fair price for coffee produced by people in developing countries to ensure that they, too, can practice sustainable farming, as I am sure they would wish to. Indeed, the fact not only that can we do our bit with the money in our pockets but that, through international organisations, we can allow people to choose sustainable farming methods brings the issue of added value into the debate.

In a week in which there has been much emphasis on international affairs, we must recognise that with all the debates on war, on having a more peaceful world and indeed on having a world where trading is freer, the free part of that trade must genuinely be free. We must not have the kind of free trade that we had in the 1980s. As a result, I recommend that people listen to this debate and take home to every part of the country the ideas that have been raised. We must recognise that, as José Bové and François Dufour have said, the world is not for sale and it is up to us to ensure that the quality products that farmers produce reach the consumers who want them.

I am also glad that the issue of transparency was mentioned earlier in the debate and I underline the fact that transparency in all aspects of purchasing, production, processing and sale of agricultural produce is a key part of free trade. However, although that forms part of the French peasants confederation's sustainable farming agenda, I do not see it necessarily forming part of Scotland's forward strategy for agriculture. I hope that we can address such issues in the debate.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative 5:02 pm, 19th November 2003

I commend Sarah Boyack for lodging the motion and securing the debate, which I welcome.

The Conservatives have the pleasure of welcoming the commitment of local authorities, community organisations and the Fairtrade Foundation to the fair trade cause, because it demonstrates the free market at its very best. Indeed, as an entirely voluntary project, the fair trade scheme is essentially capitalist. We all know that the market price of any commodity does not come down to the cost of production but to the amount that people are prepared to pay for that product. In that respect, the fair trade movement has very successfully cultivated the Fairtrade brand and has also been successful in persuading consumers not only to buy but to pay more for Fairtrade products. In much the same way, people will pay much more for tee-shirts with brand names such as Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein than for other tee-shirts.

I heard Jamie Stone refer to raw market forces. Fair trade works because of such forces and because of consumer power. After all, consumers have the choice of buying Fairtrade products, and fair trade works because they are prepared to exercise that choice. If we did not have markets, fair trade would not be a success. As a result, Fairtrade is a brand worth supporting.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

Does the member not accept that if we had let raw market forces prevail in their most extreme form, what has happened with fair trade would not have happened? It has happened because fair trade appeals to a higher sense in human beings—indeed, people are making an almost moral decision when they buy such products. I do not think that the matter has much to do with absolute raw market forces, because if it did, farmers would not have a hope. For example, in central America, they would continue to get 80 cents for a pound of coffee beans.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

Mr Stone completely misunderstands my point. Because we have a market, consumers have a choice—and exercise their choice—to buy Fairtrade products. They will happily pay more for those products because they know that more of their money will go to the producers. As a result, the market delivers success for Fairtrade producers.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

Murdo Fraser might be attempting to make a compelling case for compassionate capitalism, but I ask him to explain this to me. The Co-operative movement, in particular the retail sector, operates as a business. The Co-op recognises that it has cut its margin in order to live by its principles. He is talking about choice, but there is no evidence that any other retailer has gone down the same route. People in the Co-op have demonstrated the importance of the co-operative and mutual sector, as they live beyond mere raw profit and understand that there is a broader social objective to what they do. Would he not commend them and urge those who operate in a more crudely capitalist market to follow what the Co-op has done?

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

I am sure that the Co-op will find the Fairtrade brand a success and that its profits will increase as a result of selling that brand. Why has the Co-op been running an advertising campaign promoting Fairtrade? To attract people into its shops. People will come into the shops to buy Fairtrade products, and they will spend more money on other things at the same time.

Everybody is a winner from fair trade, so what is the problem? That is why I commend the Fairtrade mark.

Let us remember that fair trade is about more than the Fairtrade mark. It is about ensuring fair and open trading conditions for all producers in the developing world. By forming an exclusive trade block, the European Union is guilty of creating a barrier to trade with the developing world. Is that fair on producers in third-world countries? The common agricultural policy has proved particularly damaging to people in developing countries, where 90 per cent of the work force depends on farming for a living. By choosing to protect our markets with vast amounts of annual subsidy, the EU economies stand accused of restricting market access, depressing produce prices and discouraging investment.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

I am sorry, but I will not give way, as I have already taken interventions and will shortly run out of time.

If we are serious about tackling deprivation and poverty in the developing world, we must be equally serious about creating fair trading conditions for their producers. That might mean removing advantages from some home producers. Fortunately, we do not yet produce tea, coffee or the raw materials for chocolate in these islands—although we might do soon enough with some more global warming.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

I am sorry, but I am already over time and am anxious to come to a close.

If we are to open up fair trade across the board, we must face up to the possibility of home producers with much higher costs being forced out of the market. Although United Kingdom food producers are fairly efficient, people on this continent might have to pay the price—unless we are prepared to defend the common agricultural policy, which is not something that I think we should do in the long term.

Essentially, this is a moral argument. Is it right to protect producers nearer to home if that protection means condemning others around the globe to poverty and starvation? I cannot pretend to know the answers to such questions, but I commend Sarah Boyack for lodging her motion and giving us the opportunity to debate these issues.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 5:08 pm, 19th November 2003

I am obliged to Sarah Boyack for having lodged her motion. Anything that makes me feel good about drinking coffee is welcome. Drinking coffee is one of my main vices and to feel that one's vice is more moral is very helpful.

I agree with Murdo Fraser on one point: we have to sort out the European common agricultural policy. At the moment, we are almost as bad—but not quite—as the Americans on protectionism, which has a negative effect on poorer countries.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat

No—I think that I will proceed with my argument.

People have to get organised. That is the only way in which we make progress on anything. History consists of groups of people getting organised to sort out a person or a group with far too much power—somebody always has far too much power. It can be a question of the nobles ganging up on the king, of the common people ganging up on the nobles or of people ganging up through trade unions against manufacturers. People have always organised themselves to get their fair share. At the moment, poor farmers in developing countries are totally disorganised, and they are ground into the dust by the unacceptable face of capitalism.

We live in a capitalist society, governed by market forces. It should be a moral, market-force, capitalist society, however. It should also be transparent and other good things; at the moment, however, it is a bad thing. The people who have far too much power are the multinational organisations that drive American policy. The oil people, the arms-manufacturing people and the trading people drive public policy and ensure the continued poverty of people in poorer countries. Therefore, as well as supporting fair trade and doing something rather than just talking about doing something, we must keep up relentless pressure in order to reduce poorer countries' debts and encourage fairer trade with them to get them out from under the heel of the big multinational organisations.

Obviously, a fair trade approach helps a few people, but Fairtrade is not big yet as a world player, albeit that a fair trade approach can have a huge cumulative effect. If such an approach is part of an overall way of doing things to produce a moral basis for capitalism, it will be really worth while. Almost everybody would agree with that, although I am not sure about some Conservative members.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 5:10 pm, 19th November 2003

I congratulate Sarah Boyack on bringing the motion to the Parliament. My support for it does not seem to have been registered, but I assure her that I warmly support it.

Sarah Boyack said that 1,700kg of coffee are consumed by University of Edinburgh students every year, which makes one wonder whether they can ever sleep. I welcome members of that university's people and planet group, which Sarah Boyack mentioned, to the debate. On Friday at 12 o'clock, there will be a photoshoot for supporters of its campaign for the university to become a Fairtrade university. I believe that we should go to the student centre at Bristo Square and await our instructions—they should nod their heads if I am right. They would welcome the support of any MSP in the chamber.

I have supported most Fairtrade functions that I could attend in the past four years and I spoke at the Glasgow Fairtrade fair earlier this year. The Green party has supported the promotion of Fairtrade products in the Scottish Parliament, which Sarah Boyack mentioned, and we promote Fairtrade products at all our conferences.

As Sarah Boyack said, one of the most important things that we should do is promote a Fairtrade culture. I am proud to say that there is evidence of Fairtrade purchases on the shelves of my kitchen at home. Fairtrade products need to be on the menus of schools, hospitals and council offices and Fairtrade clothing and craft products should be in evidence wherever possible. In that context, I would like to pay tribute to a couple of other shops that Sarah Boyack did not mention—the Oxfam shops in Rose Street and Morningside.

The Green party recognises that the Scottish Parliament's powers over international affairs and trade are extremely limited, but we believe that much can be achieved by encouraging positive attitudes and by using every power that we have to change the world to the best of our abilities. We cannot have too much effect on the outcome of the general agreement on tariffs and trade talks or on the macroeconomic policies of the European Union and the G8, for example, but we will continue to campaign for debt relief and the complete abolition of the debt of the world's 40 poorest countries, in line with Jubilee 2000's proposals.

I welcome Murdo Fraser's criticisms of the EU and the CAP. The fact that many third-world farmers are being put out of business by the dumping of the EU's heavily subsidised surpluses, particularly in Africa, is an absolute obscenity.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

Did Robin Harper find it bizarre—as I did—that the Conservatives had such a go at the EU, as they openly promote the cause of the World Trade Organisation, for example?

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

That confused me, too. I wondered what line the Conservatives would take. I do not know whether to applaud—

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative

I would like to illuminate the member. The WTO and the various rounds of negotiations have sought to tackle the various subsidies that the member finds so abhorrent. Does he agree that the WTO should be supported in that aim?

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

I do not think that I am particularly illuminated and I certainly do not feel lit up by that intervention.

I will go back to looking at some positive developments. I think that Linda Fabiani met the cocoa farmers from Nigeria whom I met—I do not know whether she will speak about them. Under normal trading conditions those farmers lived from hand to mouth and were ruthlessly exploited by the national cocoa market. However, after 400 or so farmers combined and formed their own marketing association that linked up to Fairtrade, within a couple of years roads appeared where there had been tracks, schools were built and dispensaries and medical services appeared. The farmers were able to pay for all that once they were able to get a fair and proper price for their product.

In the Green party we have a motto that "small is beautiful". Those small but secure trading arrangements could, if they were adopted on a big enough scale, revolutionise the way that we relate to the third world. They could empower people in the third world and link them to us not only with economic bonds but with bonds of friendship and understanding. I welcome Sarah Boyack's motion.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour 5:16 pm, 19th November 2003

The debate has been illuminating and I think that we have all enjoyed it.

I congratulate Sarah Boyack on securing the debate, and I congratulate the City of Edinburgh Council and others on seeking to join the ranks of those throughout Scotland who support, and have given a commitment to support, fair trade.

I note that, as has been said, many of the issues around international trade and international development are reserved, but of course Scotland's devolved Government takes a close interest in fair trade and supports the principles of ethical trading and employment on which the Fairtrade mark is based.

I have long taken a personal interest in the fair trade agenda. At about this time last year, I spent a Saturday morning staffing the Fairtrade stall at the farmers' market in Aberdeen. That confirmed clearly how much interest in and support there is for the fair trade principle.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

I secured the advantage by being in an Executive party.

The minister mentioned aid and development. Does he agree that rather than encouraging a dependency culture in third-world countries, going down the fair trade route—Robin Harper was right to mention people who generate money themselves to build roads and so on—is a more correct method? If one wants, in a non-capitalist way, to have a Government policy of intervention by giving money to third-world countries—as we do—putting the Fairtrade mark on that policy would make it still more effective.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

I certainly agree about the importance of encouraging development in developing countries on the basis of trade rather than aid. That is precisely what fair trade can help us to do. It is worth noting that the UK Government has, through its membership of the World Trade Organisation, emphasised the point that development must be based on trade and on the economic strength of developing countries rather than on subsidy or anything else.

It is important to note what support from communities in Scotland for fair trade has done and can do to support small producers in developing countries. In addition to the immediate practical and financial benefits that producers in developing countries can gain through better trading terms and price guarantees, support for fair trade can also play a major role in encouraging UK companies to support higher standards of corporate social responsibility and to manage their supply chains in ways that benefit rather than exploit primary producers.

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative

The minister talks about corporate social responsibility and mentioned support for fair trade. Does he believe that, by definition, anything that is not fair trade is in fact unfair trade?

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

What I am clear about is that we should seek to apply the highest principles of corporate social responsibility in our operations and that we should encourage others to do precisely the same. I do not want to enter into a bandying around of words on the issue; I want to make it clear that principles are at stake and that it is appropriate that we stand by those principles.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

On the issue of corporate responsibility, I heard Robin Harper's comments about small being beautiful, but is not the significance of what the Co-op has done that it is a mainstream business that has recognised that it is possible to have a real impact by making such decisions? The issue is not about persuading the already persuaded among small groups who operate on fair trade principles, but about offering a challenge to those who wish to be seen to have corporate responsibility—the gauntlet should be thrown down to them.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

I agree with that entirely. As has been said, the Co-operative movement is to be congratulated on its efforts and the initiatives that it has taken. That takes us back to the point that a principle is at stake. The Co-op has drawn the link between the co-operative principles that are applied at home and the principles of fair trade that are applied internationally. Because of those efforts, as Sarah Boyack mentioned, the Executive parties have given an undertaking to introduce a co-operative development agency that will promote at home the co-operative principles that lie in line with the international principles of fair trade. We have made progress on that commitment and will consult on the structure and remit of the co-operative development agency in the next few months.

The issue of producers nearer to home was raised, particularly with reference to agriculture. It is worth noting that the Fairtrade Foundation, which organises the Fairtrade mark in this country, is talking to organisations in the agriculture sector in Scotland that share its approach, such as the Scottish Agricultural Organisations Society, which promotes co-operation in agriculture, about how they can reinforce one another's messages and support one another's work. However, the Fairtrade Foundation is rightly keen to ensure that its focus on producers in developing countries is not in any way diluted or undermined, although the foundation works on some issues with people who are involved in agricultural production in Scotland.

We have a responsibility for higher education provision in Scotland. Our higher education institutions are often clearly focused on matters of international trade and, in particular, fair trade.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

I welcome the minister's comments about the Executive's role, but given that the public sector in Scotland is one of the larger employers and contains the largest institutions, is the minister confident that no procurement rules count against Fairtrade purchasing for our public services?

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

I will quickly finish my point about agriculture and higher education, which is simply that the issue of fair trade is covered in the Scottish Agricultural College's course on agriculture.

On the important issue that Jeremy Purvis raises, the Executive's response is similar to a point that Sarah Boyack made, which is that we do not wish to, nor could we, impose a requirement that the Executive or other public bodies should provide Fairtrade produce exclusively. However, through our themes of sustainable development and environmental responsibility, we are keen to encourage all bodies in the public sector with which we have relations to take an approach that promotes the choice of fairly traded produce.

The focus of Sarah Boyack's motion is on the City of Edinburgh Council, but it has been mentioned that Strathaven, Aberfeldy and Paisley have received Fairtrade accreditation because of their efforts to promote fair trading, not only by the local authority, but by retailers and others in the local economy. My city, Aberdeen, and Dundee are working towards Fairtrade accreditation and I am delighted to report that a significant number of communities, both large and small, are seeking to go in that direction. We believe that that sends a clear signal to fellow citizens in Scotland and to the citizens of the world about the responsibility that we should take for ensuring fair terms of trade and that producers, wherever they are, should get a fair reward for the work that they do.

Meeting closed at 17:24.