Fair Trade Nation Status

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:41 am on 1st March 2007.

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Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour 11:41 am, 1st March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what progress it is making in obtaining fair trade nation status for Scotland. (S2O-12243)

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

We are making good progress. In January, Scotland's first ever conference of the fair trade movement took place in Perth. A smaller stakeholder working group, of which the Executive is a member, is taking forward the conference's recommendations, including that for the establishment of a Scottish fair trade forum to co-ordinate implementation of the fair trade nation criteria. We are working closely with stakeholders to maximise the awareness-raising opportunities presented by Fairtrade fortnight and are participating in a number of events around the country.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

I am pleased to learn that we are making good progress. Is the minister aware that North Lanarkshire has one of only two fair trade zones in Scotland and that the zone includes Cleland in my constituency? Will she join me in recognising the important role that is played by local schools and retailers such as the Co-op in delivering fair trade products to our communities? Will she also join me in congratulating North Lanarkshire Council on its decision to use only fair trade tea and coffee at all civic functions?

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The decision that North Lanarkshire Council and other authorities and organisations around the country have taken is exactly the kind of action that will help us to achieve fair trade nation status. More important, such actions raise awareness of the difference that fair trade organisations can make to those who produce the goods. It has been refreshing and interesting to watch the progress that is being made in Scotland's schools. Pupils, teachers and others in school communities are to be congratulated on the work that is being done around Scotland.

This morning I was privileged to welcome a fair trade procession at the Parliament and was pleased to greet two of the Malawi fair trade producers who formed part of the delegation. They explained the contact that they have had with retailers in this country, including the Co-op, which has been at the forefront of the campaign. I want their produce to filter through into many other retailers throughout the country.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I am sure that the minister will agree that it is marvellous that towns, schools, councils, universities and zones have achieved fair trade status. However, if we are really to be a fair trade nation, a much more ambitious commitment is needed. If fair trade nation status is to be truly what it purports to be, it must involve not just retailers' providing fair trade tea, coffee and smaller consumer goods but an examination of the nation's procurement targets and practices. Will the remit of the working group allow that issue to be taken forward so that, for example, our public bodies will be able to procure fair trade goods for public services?

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The criteria for fair trade nation status have now been agreed, and we are working to meet those criteria. Linda Fabiani is right to mention procurement practices, but the issue is fairly complex, not least because some of the regulations that we are required to follow are made at European level. The Scottish Executive's aim is to ensure that local authorities and other public bodies in Scotland, including the Executive, are able to maximise the opportunities to purchase fair trade produce, and to ensure that we do that within the law. We hope to issue guidance in the near future that will supplement the existing guidance that explains to local authorities how far they can go on the issue.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I identify myself with the comments that the minister and Karen Whitefield have made, but I put it to the minister that it will be difficult for Scotland to attain fair trade nation status if we do not have fair trade at home. What pressure has she put on her Cabinet colleagues to ensure that our farmers are allowed fair trade, especially with the supermarkets?

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

We all want our farmers to be dealt with fairly, but I am not 100 per cent sure that farmers in this country can be compared with those in countries such as Malawi, where the situation is very difficult as there are literally no outlets for the produce that farmers have to offer. We are setting an example by encouraging farmers in those countries, but I am sure that the Executive will be happy to do whatever it can to assist our farmers further. However, I am aware that not all the levers are in our hands. Obviously, the issue is important for farmers and producers in this country, too.

Photo of Mark Ballard Mark Ballard Green

I, too, welcome Scotland's progress towards becoming a fair trade nation. Further to the minister's remarks about schools, will she join me in congratulating the University of Edinburgh on its continuing progress since it became Scotland's first fair trade university, given that it now serves more than 1 million cups of fair trade tea and coffee every year? Will she encourage other colleges and universities in Scotland to take up fair trade status? Will she commend the work of the University of Edinburgh's People & Planet society, which recently produced a short film encouraging other student associations to ensure that their institutions become fair trade universities?

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I am tempted just to say yes, but I think that Mr Ballard expects a bit more from me. I am delighted to be able formally in the Parliament to congratulate the University of Edinburgh on the work that it has done, not just in recent times, but over a long period. Along with other partners, the university has been at the forefront of driving the fair trade agenda. I am sure that its contribution will continue as we work towards fair trade nation status.