Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:30 pm on 8th March 2007.

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Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour 4:30 pm, 8th March 2007

I, too, thank Christine May for securing the debate. I also thank members around the chamber for their thoughtful speeches. I welcome all our friends in the public gallery and extend our collective apologies if some of them thought, as many of us did until probably mid-afternoon, that the debate would start at 5.

I welcome in particular two friends from Malawi who have joined us for the debate—Brian Namata from Kasinthula Cane Growers Ltd and Dyborn Chibonga from the National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi, which is known as NASFAM. I welcome them both to the Scottish Parliament. They will join us for the reception that was due to follow immediately after the debate and which takes place at 6 o'clock. I doubt that this is the case, but if anyone in the chamber has any lingering doubt about the effect of fair trade, to which Linda Fabiani referred, they need only attend the reception to hear Brian and Dyborn talk about the effect that it has had on their lives and on their communities' lives.

It is probably fair to mention a housekeeping matter in connection with the reception's timing. If any of our friends is at a loss for what to do between the debate's culmination and the reception's beginning, officials who are on hand would be happy to show people round the Parliament if they have not been round before.

I very much welcome this debate on fair trade, which is of course timed to mark Fairtrade fortnight 2007. First, I recognise the incredible energy and enthusiasm of Scots around the country who have worked tirelessly to highlight fair trade in their communities. Fair trade is not just about two weeks of the year; it is about impassioned and sustained activism.

As we have heard from members around the chamber, campaigners everywhere have worked tirelessly to achieve fair trade status. I understand that in this fortnight alone, six organisations and communities in Scotland will receive that status, which might be for a zone, a city, a town, a village, a church, a university or a school. All such places are organising events to mark Fairtrade fortnight. They all deserve our thanks and support, because fair trade is not just about choosing one type of coffee over another. In answer to Christine May's point, I understand that more than 200 products are now in the Fairtrade range.

The reason why we are all involved in the movement is that fair trade saves and improves lives. It is about partnership between us in the north and the producers, who are often in the south. We must all embrace that if Scotland is to have a chance of becoming a fair trade nation.

In the past week and a half, I have had the opportunity to meet many fair trade supporters and stakeholders around the country. On Friday, I attended a summit of local authorities that East Ayrshire Council organised in Kilmarnock. I am delighted that one outcome of that summit is the establishment of a local authority network to share best practice around the country and to consider how local authorities can support one another.