Fairtrade Fortnight

– in the Scottish Parliament at 5:02 pm on 3rd March 2010.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 5:02 pm, 3rd March 2010

The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S3M-5768, in the name of Bill Butler, on Fairtrade fortnight 2010. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes Fairtrade Fortnight, which runs from 22 February to 7 March 2010; applauds the efforts of church groups, charities, schools and individuals in promoting the benefits of fair trade in Scotland; considers that the fair trade movement has already made a positive difference to the lives of thousands of people and communities across the globe; recognises that the fair trade concept is based on traditional cooperative principles of community ownership, concern for communities and democratic membership control; notes that estimated sales of fair trade products across the United Kingdom total over £700 million; welcomes moves to establish a cross-party group on fair trade in the Scottish Parliament; notes the continuing success of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, established in January 2007, ahead of its third Fairtrade Fortnight tour of Scotland; notes that the tour will cover 15 local authority areas in order to raise awareness of the final push to make Scotland the world's second Fair Trade nation by the end of 2011, and would welcome as many schools, local authorities, further and higher education establishments and businesses as possible striving to achieve fair trade status.

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour 5:12 pm, 3rd March 2010

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I thank, too, the 60 members from across the chamber who signed my motion. They have helped to send out the message that this Parliament unreservedly supports the concept of fair trade and that we all have groups and individuals working away in our constituencies on a daily basis, particularly during Fairtrade fortnight, to promote that ideal.

Fairtrade fortnight highlights the work that the fair trade movement carries out as it plays its part in helping to build a world in which there is trade justice, unfair debt is dropped and more aid is targeted at countries in the developing world that are in desperate need.

Fair trade is a guarantee of many of the standards that we take for granted. Small-scale farmers receive a fair and guaranteed price, minimum health and safety standards are met, no child or forced labour can be used, all producers are free to join a trade union and there is a social premium. Those standards are a guarantee of civilised, humane production.

The fair trade ethos is predicated on the co-operative principles of community ownership: democratic membership control; the equitable distribution of profits; and a commitment to building long-term, sustainable trading relationships on local, national and international levels. Those values safeguard the rights and the welfare of workers and consumers alike, and as such they are conducive to a better quality of life for all and greater cohesion in the global marketplace. To be awarded a Fairtrade mark, products must meet a stringent set of criteria based on those principles.

In recent years, we have witnessed a boom in sales of fairly traded produce, to the extent that sales have risen to an estimated £700 million across the UK alone. Indeed, Britain is the world's largest market for fair trade products. The Fairtrade Foundation is rightly delighted with that growth rate. Fair trade products are high quality and sustainable and they offer genuine value for money, but most important the Fairtrade Foundation's standards include a fair and stable price being paid to farmers in developing countries.

I recognise and salute the pioneering work of the Co-operative Group, which has supported the Fairtrade mark since its inception in 1994 and played a crucial role in bringing ethically traded produce to national prominence. In recent months, we have all seen companies such as Marks and Spencer and Cadbury commit to widening their range of fair and ethically traded products. Their conversion to the cause is welcome, but it should not be forgotten that, as with so many retail initiatives, it was the Co-op that led the way.

In 2006, my close colleague Patricia Ferguson, who was then the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, announced that Scotland was to seek fair trade nation status. For that to happen, we must demonstrate a serious and enduring commitment to promoting and supporting Fairtrade produce: 100 per cent of local authorities and 60 per cent of universities and colleges must have groups that are working towards achieving that status, and 75 per cent of the population must purchase Fairtrade products annually.

Since 2006, significant progress has been made in schools, church groups and small, community-led projects across the country. Groups such as the one established at the school where I once taught, Stonelaw high school—students and teachers from which are in the gallery—all provide a positive and passionate grass-roots base on which we can build our bid.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Will the member take an intervention on that point?

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour

Not at this minute.

I know that many members will wish to talk about groups that operate in their constituencies and regions, so I would like to use the rest of the short time that has been allotted to me to talk about the role of Government and what it can do to help achieve fair trade nation status.

It is crucial that the Government encourages local authorities to continue to promote fair trade. I am extremely proud to say that over the past decade huge strides have been made in my city of Glasgow, which became a Fairtrade city in 2006. Glasgow city chambers is completely Fairtrade for tea, coffee and other items on request, there are many Fairtrade schools across the city and Glasgow City Council has provided financial support for a number of fair trade projects and awareness-raising events in the city. We must all ensure that the rest of Scotland's 32 local authorities take similar action, and we look to the Government to encourage that.

Fairtrade products should be available in all of Scotland's schools, the fair trade message should form part of the national curriculum and pupils should be actively encouraged to participate by setting up, as many have done, their own fair trade groups. We also need the Government to support the Scottish Fair Trade Forum's final push campaign by pledging a significant proportion of its own catering budget to Fairtrade produce and by increasing public sector use of Fairtrade goods. We look to the Government to back that initiative.

The minister will be aware that I have lodged a series of written questions on the issue and that at question time tomorrow I will ask her whether the Government will commit to increasing the number, and widening the range, of Fairtrade products that its catering services use. I hope that she will be able to reply positively to that very modest request.

The holding of the Commonwealth games in Glasgow in 2014 gives us a unique opportunity to ensure that Fairtrade produce is used at venues, training camps and the athletes village. By doing so, we can ensure that the games contribute not only to the regeneration of Glasgow and Scotland, but to farms, towns and villages in the developing world. I ask the minister to discuss that logical and reasonable suggestion with games organisers and the Fair Trade Forum.

Following the debate, fair trade campaigners will gather in committee room 4 for the first meeting of the cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament on fair trade. I encourage members of all parties to come along, sign up as members of the group and show their solidarity with workers across the globe.

We all know that the global market is distorted in favour of the rich, to the detriment of the poor. It is to help combat that distortion, to redress the balance and to ensure that people in the developing world gain greater control over their own destinies that the fair trade movement exists.

It is predicated on the principles of co-operation and a co-operative commonwealth. If we, as citizens of a global economy, learn to live by that principle, there is no reason why we should not all enjoy a fair share of the world's wealth.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

We now move to the open debate. There will be four-minute speeches. I ask members to keep tightly to time as a considerable number of members wish to speak.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party 5:15 pm, 3rd March 2010

I thank Bill Butler for ensuring that we have our annual debate on fair trade during Fairtrade fortnight.

I was happy to sign the motion and think that this will be a good debate, but first I would like to make a couple of points. I do not want to sound negative or be a downer, but we must remember that even though the fair trade movement is based on traditional co-operative principles of community ownership, which we should all be pleased about, the fact that a label is stuck on something does not mean that it is automatically good. For example, some of the co-operatives on certain fruit plantations in South America do not allow trade union membership and that there are concerns about the rights of some workers in those places. We must always monitor and evaluate the situation with fair trade practices.

Although I am delighted that we are moving towards Scotland becoming a fair trade nation—I offer congratulations to everyone who has been involved in that—we have to ensure that that designation is meaningful. When Patricia Ferguson spoke about it in January or February 2007, she spoke about the status being serious and enduring. The current Government has also spoken about seriousness and said that the designation must be meaningful. We should hold on to that. Being a fair trade nation is about more than just the products that are bought in shops and having Fairtrade towns, councils and schools; it is about carrying on lobbying Westminster and Europe—and the Scottish Government, to an extent—to ensure that work that can be done through procurement and other big things continues to be embraced.

After an event that Bill Wilson and I attended a couple of months ago, he lodged a motion about ethical procurement in the national health service. It was inspired by work that was done following the British Medical Association's fair and ethical trade group's visit to Pakistan. I know that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing is aware of that movement and believe that a member of her team is considering the issue closely.

I think that the things that happen in communities across the country are wonderful. In my area, East Kilbride and Hamilton are Fairtrade towns. I visited a school in Wishaw with Jack McConnell; it brought us joy to see how children have embraced the fair trade idea.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I have been contacted by a number of schools where pupils who were involved in the establishment of school tuck shops that would have sold Fairtrade products as part of a co-ordinated effort in the school to motivate youngsters and make an impact were prohibited from selling some Fairtrade products because they conflicted with national guidelines—because, for example, they contained chocolate. That demotivated those youngsters and drove them away from the good ends that we are concerned with rather than towards them. Will Linda Fabiani join me in asking ministers to consider the national guidelines to see whether they contain sufficient flexibility to enable those schools to meet the objectives of healthy eating while promoting fair trade?

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

As that intervention was a speech, I will give you a couple of extra seconds, Ms Fabiani.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I will not make my answer into a speech. I have sympathy for the point that Jack McConnell makes; youngsters have approached me on the same matter. I believe that the issue has to be considered. I want to promote healthy eating, but not having Fairtrade chocolate poses a bit of a problem. The issue represents an anomaly that must be examined.

I congratulate Strathaven academy, which is in Scotland's first Fairtrade town—I acknowledge that it shares that honour with Aberfeldy—on the Madinafest that it held last week. At that event the youngsters pointed out, rightly, that fair trade is not about giving people handouts but involves a mutually beneficial exchange in the marketplace and represents a way of giving people a helping hand. They tied the fair trade movement in with Strathaven's weaving history and the story of the radical uprising of 1820, which led to James "Perlie" Wilson's being executed for calling for workers rights. That thread of history is important in relation to some of the things that Bill Butler said about fair working. The concept of fair trade and working together has been around for a long time. The pupils of Strathaven academy recognise that. One of the big benefits of the fair trade movement is that people throughout the country recognise that it is both historical and for the future—and about giving a fair deal to workers in communities the world over.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Before I call Mary Mulligan I must tell members that I will have to start keeping them to a tight four minutes. Mary Mulligan will be followed by Gavin Brown.

Photo of Mary Mulligan Mary Mulligan Labour 5:25 pm, 3rd March 2010

I congratulate Bill Butler on securing this evening's debate. Since he was elected to the Scottish Parliament he has championed the cause of fair trade, as we might expect from a co-operator, so he is well qualified to lead the debate.

Members will be aware that fair trade has been around for more than 40 years, but the labelling scheme with which we are all so familiar was not introduced until the 1980s. Then, in 1992, the Fairtrade Foundation was established by a union of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Traidcraft and the World Development Movement. A little later, they were joined by the Women's Institute. In October last year, I was pleased to lodge a motion that congratulated the Fairtrade Foundation on its 15th anniversary and I am grateful to the many members across the political spectrum who supported it.

In January 2000, the first bananas to carry the Fairtrade mark went on sale in more than 1,000 Co-operative stores. They are often seen as the first recognisable Fairtrade commodity. Later that year, coffee and tea carrying the Fairtrade mark also became available. In the past 10 years, we have seen retailers such as Starbucks, Sainsbury's and Tesco carrying Fairtrade goods. We have seen towns, banks, trade unions and even the United Kingdom Government signing up to support fair trade. No longer is it the preserve of specialist shops, the churches or the Co-op. That is real progress as it has made fair trade mainstream. There is still some way to go, but I will return to that.

The progress I have described could not have been made without the efforts of many people. I am pleased to welcome to the public gallery tonight, along with the schoolchildren about whom we have already heard, fair trade supporters from my constituency—people from Whitburn, Bathgate and Linlithgow who give their time regularly and freely to promote fair trade in their communities. Their work has resulted in Whitburn and Linlithgow being recognised as Fairtrade towns; Bathgate is striving towards that. They have also joined up with other communities in West Lothian, notably Broxburn, to consider ways in which to achieve Fairtrade status for West Lothian. However, it is not just the title they seek; they want to ensure that people understand that Fairtrade status is important because of the benefits it offers to the producers of the goods that are sold.

What also impresses me about the people who are involved is that they come from a variety of social and economic backgrounds, that they are of various ages, and that they have various faiths and none. The principle that binds them together is fairness. I suggest that their work is even more commendable because they seek fairness for people whom they will probably never meet, but they know that it is the right thing to do.

I said that although we have come a long way there is still some work to be done. I welcome the fact that, tonight, MSPs will establish a new cross-party group on fair trade. I will be proud to be a member of it. I do not have time to respond to the Scottish Fair Trade Forum's proposals for an action plan for the Scottish Government, but I hope that the Scottish Government will do what Bill Butler suggested and respond positively. I fully support the aim of Scotland becoming a fair trade nation. I hope that, after tonight's debate, we will set about further promoting fair trade throughout Scotland and genuinely contribute to alleviating global poverty.

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative 5:29 pm, 3rd March 2010

I, too, congratulate Bill Butler for securing this debate and for his speech. Of course, fair trade allows consumers voluntarily to send a signal about the conditions under which they want their goods to be produced. We should never underestimate how powerful that signal is at individual level and, more important, at collective level, as the movement grows and grows.

We find ourselves fairly close to the end of Fairtrade fortnight, which runs from 22 February to 7 March. It is fair to say that the fortnight has been bigger and better than ever before. What impresses me as much as anything is how innovative, cutting-edge and successful the organisation has been in embracing technology and using every possible means to get its message across to people of all ages throughout the United Kingdom. This year's big idea, as it were, is the big swap, the challenge behind which is to get 1,000,001 people across the UK to agree to swap for the whole fortnight one household product that they would typically buy for a fair trade product. That is just the initial objective, but we hope that people stick with the fair trade product when the two weeks are up.

Looking in advance of this debate at previous fair trade debates, I was interested to note that in the first debate there were many jibes and comments about the quality of the bananas, the tea, the coffee and the chocolate. However, that debate is well and truly dead. The quality of the product right across the spectrum has changed and is as good as one will find anywhere else. As a result, I am hopeful that those who decide to take part in the big swap will continue to buy those products long after Fairtrade fortnight is over.

As I read through previous debates, I was also comforted to note that the sales of fair trade products have not been negatively affected by the economic downturn—those who have been loyal to the products have remained so. Indeed, according to the last figures that I looked at, there was 12 per cent growth in fair trade products in the UK. Bill Butler mentioned a UK-wide figure of £700 million which, as he said, makes us the world's largest market for fair trade products. Purely out of interest, I would be interested to know the Scottish share of that £700 million and whether we punch above our weight in the UK. I rather suspect that we punch well above our weight.

One of the reasons for the fair trade movement's continued success is that it is a genuinely grass-roots movement that has embraced everyone, including business and commerce, who has wanted to be part of it. Indeed, as Bill Butler said, Marks and Spencer and Cadbury have embraced various initiatives. Walking down the Royal Mile to work, I noticed that Starbucks is running a fair trade promotion and according the Fairtrade Foundation's website, Ben and Jerry's ice cream, which is designed to appeal to the younger consumer, has been signed up and is on board.

The movement clearly continues to make progress. It has certainly made a positive contribution and I hope that growth over the next year and beyond will be stronger.

Photo of David Whitton David Whitton Labour 5:33 pm, 3rd March 2010

I am delighted to take part in this debate and congratulate my colleague Bill Butler for bringing this important topic to the chamber. It provides me with a terrific reason to boast about what is being done in my Strathkelvin and Bearsden constituency to support the fair trade movement—I assure members that a lot is happening.

As we have already heard, Scotland has become an integral part of the fair trade market, with 71 per cent of the country's population now recognising the Fairtrade mark, six cities achieving Fairtrade status, and 10 Scottish local authorities, including East Dunbartonshire Council, earning Fairtrade zone status. The movement's national success has been made possible by communities throughout Scotland. East Dunbartonshire achieved Fairtrade zone status in 2007 and has been involved in countless projects involving schools, churches and the local business community to foster fair trade in Scotland.

In schools, the glow Scotland online learning community was launched in 2007 as an education resource for teachers and pupils. East Dunbartonshire was chosen as a pilot area. It has a forum for sharing ideas on fair trade issues.

The fair trade steering group in the East Dunbartonshire Council area was established in 2004 and it has, since then, put the spotlight on the area's schools. The president of Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce, Robert Wilson, stated then:

"We set up a Schools' Fairtrade Network for Secondary School pupils as an opportunity for them to share information and ideas. This is now supported by a GLOW Fairtrade group which provides a unique opportunity for schools to communicate on this issue. We will develop the network and extend it to primary schools so that pupils from across the area can talk to each other and learn from each other's experiences of how best to promote Fairtrade in their school and community."

I know that, in addition to pupils talking to one another, primary schools and secondary schools have been in communication with schools in Malawi.

East Dunbartonshire was also chosen as a pilot area for the pilot Fairtrade school uniform initiative, the goal of which is to encourage the supply of and demand for Fairtrade uniforms, specifically in the cotton market, which is a relatively unexplored fair trade market that has been especially badly hit by the economic recession. We heard my colleague Jack McConnell talk about school tuck shops. School tuck shops are being advised which Fairtrade products are suitable for sale, and nutrition information to accompany the goods is available. However, I am not sure about the chocolate.

An event for Fairtrade fortnight 2010 provided churches with the opportunity to have discussions with one other and share their thoughts on how they, too, can get involved in fair trade.

The local business community has been greatly involved with the fair trade movement. Companies such as Silver Birch (Scotland) Ltd in the third sector, Guala Closures Group and HarperCollins have all promoted fair trade to their employees.

Several projects are under way in East Dunbartonshire Council; for example, encouragement is being given to leisure centres in East Dunbartonshire to supply Fairtrade products.

A unique relationship has formed between the National Association of Smallholding Farmers of Malawi and Just Trading Scotland in fostering the Kilombero rice project. East Dunbartonshire's schools are significant markets for Just Trading Scotland's Kilombero rice. The Scottish Government and various grants have facilitated that venture. A grant from the Lorna Young Foundation allowed an upgrade of a rice mill in Malawi, and Renfrewshire Council has helped with the purchase of other equipment. Rice has subsequently been distributed to East Dunbartonshire schools, replacing rice that was previously supplied that was not fairly traded. Kilombero rice does not bear the official Fairtrade mark, but the use of it is recognised as part of a commitment to working towards achieving Fairtrade zone status. The rice project's success has led to its growth within and beyond East Dunbartonshire; schools in Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire are also buying that rice. There is now a 90kg rice challenge, in which churches, schools and other groups are challenged to sell 90kg of fairly traded rice, which is enough to send one child to a local high school in Malawi for a year. That is as good a reason as any for supporting Fairtrade fortnight.

Photo of Hugh O'Donnell Hugh O'Donnell Liberal Democrat 5:38 pm, 3rd March 2010

As other members have done, I congratulate Bill Butler for lodging the motion during Fairtrade fortnight, which we are coming to the end of, as Gavin Brown said.

I would like to widen our consideration and suggest that fair trade should be, like ethical foreign policies, our resting position—I refer to the practice, not just to the brand. That view is partly founded on the moral aspect. Many small producers throughout the world, whether of foodstuffs, cotton or other products, produce much of their stuff because of the demand of our consumers. Perhaps they have diverted from sustaining their own communities with adequate levels of foodstuffs and indigenous products to satisfy our desire to have out-of-season fruits or our continual demands for chocolate or tea. We have a moral obligation to ensure that producers who follow our desires get a fair return.

Fairtrade the brand has done remarkably well. Mary Mulligan rightly mentioned the existence of the movement prior to the branding, but we must now take the issue not only to consumers, but to manufacturers on a much higher level. We must ensure that the big purchasers are obliged, as far as is legally possible, to ensure that the conditions on which they supply products and buy from small groups of producers are fair, and that they do not impose on their suppliers unreasonable conditions in order to get the prices that suit us or that provide the profit margins that they desire.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

Does the member agree that it is important to take that approach not only in the context of fair trade goods such as food and textiles, but in the context of travel and tourism and the issues that go along with them, so that we ensure that the workers who provide services are treated properly and fairly?

Photo of Hugh O'Donnell Hugh O'Donnell Liberal Democrat

Cathy Jamieson makes a good and pertinent point, which ties in nicely with the issue of what we call the all-inclusive holiday. Many big tour companies are at pains to encourage us to take such holidays. Unfortunately, the people fly into the resort and the money flies out and the workers earn the minimum wage. I have experience of that in Europe. As I said at the outset, we must widen our understanding of what constitutes fair trade. I see no reason why tourism services should not be included in the Fairtrade branding and the benchmarks that we have set.

As is traditional in such debates, I must refer to something in my region, which is the success of North Lanarkshire Council's Fairtrade schools programme. Having ticked that particular box, I again congratulate Mr Butler for the success of the debate, and I congratulate all those who are involved in the fair trade movement. I encourage the minister to consider adopting fair trade as a resting position, not just for a fortnight.

Photo of Marlyn Glen Marlyn Glen Labour 5:42 pm, 3rd March 2010

I, too, congratulate Bill Butler on securing the debate. I hope that it will provide another impetus to the drive to gain fair trade nation status for Scotland. That is a worthy goal and I look forward to our reaching it in the near future. I remember the excitement that was generated when Aberdeen and Dundee were granted Fairtrade status in March 2004 on the same day—they both claim to have reached the line first. I congratulate the north-east towns of Montrose, Ellon and Inverurie, which have all gained Fairtrade status.

Five goals must be met for recognition—the five Cs of council, commerce, community, common consensus and captains. As an important impetus for the councils, I ask the minister to write to all local authorities for regular updates on their work towards gaining Fairtrade status. The Parliament must take a lead, not just in serving fair trade products, such as the Divine chocolate that is on sale in the building, but in ensuring that we exercise the greatest possible influence to change the culture so that fair trade becomes a first principle in all procurement, as Hugh O'Donnell outlined. The responses from local authorities should be made available to members, who can then try to influence them to make the important choice to swap to fair trade.

Like other members, I was delighted to attend one of the many events that have taken place throughout Scotland and the UK during the Fairtrade fortnight. On Saturday, in Dundee's Bonar hall, there was a strictly Fairtrade tea dance—the only one in Scotland. It was a heady mix of delicious fair trade products and dance, which included street, salsa, tap and contemporary dance, with of course tea to follow. There were demonstrations of the dancing as well as opportunities for participation. The tea dance is an innovative way to introduce a wider audience to fair trade as well as to have fun. It is really important that we get across the message of fair trade to as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible.

Councillor Richard McCready of Dundee Fair Trade Forum said:

"the serious message is that Fair-trade Tea still represents only 10% of the UK market and everyone (individually) needs to swap their cuppa to a Fair-trade Tea and then workplaces, schools, shops and local cafes need to make the switch to ensure that tea producers and workers in the developing world get a fair deal."

An event in Dundee tomorrow will look at fair trade's accomplishments and its effects on the lives of people in Palestine. There will be a talk from Palestinian olive oil producers from the Fair Trade Development Center in Bethlehem.

I have watched Dundee's Fairtrade city campaign go from strength to strength since 2001, when the council was the first in Scotland to adopt a fair trade policy. Now, the Dundee Fair Trade Forum has been established by the One World Centre.

I have always believed that individuals can make changes to their own lives, which, when added together, will have wide-ranging consequences. Fair trade is everyone's responsibility. Each of us needs to act to help us meet the ambitious target of a million swaps to fair trade to help transform the lives of producers, as Bill Butler outlined.

It is the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament to be seen to take a lead in supporting Scotland to become a fair trade nation. I welcome the establishment of the new cross-party group and I will be delighted to become a member of it.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 5:46 pm, 3rd March 2010

I congratulate Bill Butler on securing the debate, in which I am delighted to speak.

Fair trade and Fairtrade fortnight's success and popularity keep growing. I take the opportunity to congratulate the many primary and secondary schools, churches, community groups and businesses in my region that now support fair trade, because their actions make a real difference to communities around the world.

I particularly want to congratulate this year's winner of the 2010 Lord Provost's award in Edinburgh: Hadeel. Given that I am a member of the cross-party group on Palestine, it will not surprise members to know that I was delighted that Hadeel won the award. Based at St George's West church, Hadeel is a fair trade shop that aims to provide a sustainable source of income for craftspeople who work with social enterprises in the west bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Galilee and the Negev. It provides so much more than just an income, as many of the social enterprises help to provide health, education and emergency services in communities in which there is a complete local government vacuum. We hear stories from all over the world about the overall effects of fair trade.

Congratulations must also go to the National Library of Scotland, which won the best newcomer award in Lothian, and St Peter's Episcopal church, which won the fair trade faith community award.

I also highlight the success and hard work of the pupils of Dyce academy who brought a petition before the Public Petitions Committee that challenged regulations that meant that their school tuck shop had to stop selling fair trade sweets and chocolate. I remember presenting a robust defence of the delights of the odd nibble of a bit of delicious fair trade dark chocolate—it is supposed to be one little bit, but it is remarkable how quickly the bars disappear once we open them. I believe that the campaign managed to overturn the complete ban, so pupils can rest assured—I hope that the Government will confirm this—that they can continue to help other children and young people throughout the world once or twice a week in their fair trade shops.

Despite the successes, we can still do better. I am sure that most members will be aware of the current situation in the NHS: the BMA has suggested that at least one fifth of all surgical equipment is made in northern Pakistan, where child labour is very common. The BMA is now campaigning to ensure that the NHS uses more fair trade and ethically sourced medical kit. The campaign follows the BMA's survey of 383 doctors, which suggested that although eight in 10 doctors were supportive of the NHS purchasing ethically sourced goods, only one in 10 was actually aware that such equipment existed.

Fair trade has the potential to be the very foundation stone of a new world economy—a stable, green, fair and equitable world economy that is based on a new set of values, including, along with the vision of world equality that Bill Butler advocated so passionately, new relationships with our environment; new relationships between commerce and communities; new relationships between rich and poor nations and communities; and a renewal of the commitment to quality that should permeate all trade, to which Gavin Brown referred. That is what fair trade stands for: quality and equality.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I am minded to accept a motion without notice to extend the debate by up to 30 minutes.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 8.14.3, the debate be extended by up to 30 minutes.—[Bill Butler.]

Motion agreed to.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour 5:50 pm, 3rd March 2010

Like colleagues, I congratulate Bill Butler on lodging the motion. It is significant that, even in a recession, fair trade products are still doing incredibly well. Bill Butler's motion highlights the progress that is being made on raising people's awareness of and commitment to the principles that underpin fair trade. That represents a huge amount of work by producers, retailers and campaigners. In tonight's debate, we celebrate the contribution that they have all made.

I was delighted and proud that all three winners at Edinburgh's fair trade awards last week, which Robin Harper just mentioned, are in my constituency of Edinburgh Central. The overall winner was Hadeel, as he said. I put on record my thanks to Carol Morton and her husband, Colin, who first made the contact with Palestinian producers 22 years ago. That represents a phenomenal commitment. Hadeel is a trading arm of Palcrafts and is the only Palestinian trading arm in Britain that deals with fair trade goods. Hadeel—the shop—and Palcrafts, which works on a mail-order basis, have done incredibly well.

It was fantastic to have in Edinburgh this week Hind El Arabi, who is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency's women's programme officer. She has worked in the west bank and Gaza for more than a decade. She gave us fantastic examples of the impact of fairly traded products such as embroidered goods that are made by women, particularly in Gaza.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I would normally give way, but I am under time constraints. I acknowledge that Hugh O'Donnell has been to Gaza.

Given that 80 per cent of Gazans rely on food aid, it is almost impossible to stress enough how important being able to trade economically is for people in Gaza. The moral support that they obtain from knowing that the rest of the world is not ignoring them is hugely important.

I am delighted that representatives of Zaytoun, the olive oil producers, are here from Palestine this week. I hope that more such activity will be spread across the country.

As part of Fairtrade fortnight, the National Library of Scotland made its big swap. It has recently refurbished its cafe and has made a fantastic commitment by saying that it just made sense to convert to fair trade. Such decisions are being made throughout the country. I hope that we will become a fair trade nation.

It is a long time since I lobbied the then Presiding Officer, David Steel, to have fair trade coffee in the Parliament. As we establish the cross-party group on fair trade tonight, I lobby for fair trade goods in the parliamentary shop. I have lobbied for Palestinian coasters that are embroidered with a Scottish flavour—the manufacturers are happy to produce whatever we want, whether the design is a saltire or any other form. One problem in Palestine is coming up with new ideas; people there must constantly refresh their products.

Why do we not sell olive oil, almonds and Palestinian coasters? I understand that the purchasing policy has recently changed, so we could revisit the idea. If we sold fair trade goods in our Parliament, that would be a practical example. I hope that that might be one of the cross-party group's first successes. I am sure that Patricia Ferguson, who has called the group's meeting, has many campaign ideas up her sleeve, but that is the idea that I put on the agenda for tonight.

The fact that we debate fair trade almost every year, that we come up with new products each year and that new commitments are made in our communities each year shows that Scotland is moving towards gaining fair trade nation status. The debate provides one way to contribute to pushing for that status. We acknowledge the work of community groups and businesses and the campaign work that has been done to take us to that fantastic goal.

Photo of Gil Paterson Gil Paterson Scottish National Party 5:54 pm, 3rd March 2010

The Scottish Parliament has an excellent record of bringing fair trade issues to the public's attention. The topic of tonight's debate—Fairtrade fortnight—continues the fine record; Bill Butler should be congratulated on securing the debate, which gives the chamber the chance, once again, to highlight why fair trade is a goal that is worth pursuing.

I draw attention to how difficult it is for people in the developing world to achieve a fair share of the marketplace and a fair price for what they have produced. When it comes to trade in Scotland or the UK as a whole, we can say that we live in a sophisticated, well-connected and organised society; but even here, farmers who are part of this society and who have unions and co-operatives of their own and are highly organised, articulate and experienced in their approach to business find to their cost that vested big business interests by way of multinational supermarkets and large middle-men distributors are hard to bargain with. Farmers and producers have to bargain with those interests if they are to achieve a decent price for their produce.

Farmers and producers in this country have an enormous fight on their hands just to break even, never mind achieve a fair price. We have to remind ourselves that that is happening even with the almost full support of politicians of every persuasion plus Governments, the public and the great support of the press. The battle that our farmers and producers wage has gone on for years. A producer in a developing country battles against the same powerful people as our farmers and producers, but they have to do it with little or no support from politicians or the media—with some notable exceptions. We can imagine how difficult it is for them to get a fair deal. When doing deals with the big guys, the fair trade producers will always come off second or third best unless interventions are made on their behalf. Giving time and support to champions such as my very good friend John McAllion to enable them to assist in informing the Scottish public of the need to buy fair trade goods is not only a pleasure but a social and economic obligation.

Small countries such as Scotland are in the vanguard of promoting fair trade issues. If Scotland were to become a fair trade nation it would be a win-win situation; it would be a win for fair trade producers because more opportunities would be opened up for fair trade and more publicity would be generated for the cause of fair trade—Scotland becoming a fair trade nation is bound to be worth a few column inches and comment around the world—and it would be a win for Scotland because it would put us on the map for all the right reasons.

I encourage members, the Parliament as a whole and the Government to push forward on this worthwhile project. It can deliver substantial benefit for people who are clearly helping themselves but need partners and friends to make the difference in overcoming powerful vested interests. I am delighted to support Bill Butler's motion.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour 5:58 pm, 3rd March 2010

I am delighted to take part in this evening's debate on fair trade at the end of Fairtrade fortnight. It is a fitting end to such a successful fortnight. Like others, I congratulate Bill Butler on bringing the motion to the chamber. The fact that the motion was signed by so many MSPs shows the degree of support that exists for fair trade across the Parliament.

I welcome to the public gallery the Stonelaw high fair trade group, the pupils of which are led by their teacher Isabel Gilchrist. I know that Bill Butler strongly endorses the work of the group; some years ago he was a teacher at Stonelaw high.

The Stonelaw high fair trade group is one of the most successful school fair trade groups in Scotland, is always active and participates in all local events in the Rutherglen and Cambuslang area; indeed, it has been invited to many meetings throughout Scotland to showcase its work. It is not just a case of talking about work; the group puts its principles into practice in the sales that it has been able to generate and the links that it has made in relation to fair trade. It must be congratulated on that work.

Like other MSPs, I am fortunate to be able to talk about active fair trade movements in my constituency. The Camglen fair trade forum is an active and successful campaign, the objective of which is achieving Fairtrade status for Rutherglen and Cambuslang. It has many active supporters in the community, especially on the committee, which is fronted by Kieran Dinwoodie and John Sanderson.

There are clear benefits to fair trade. There are obvious benefits in the countries with which we trade as we build up links and ensure that there are commercial benefits and a build-up of skills, but there are also benefits to Scotland. From the number of groups, schools and churches that participate in fair trade, it is evident that fair trade has awakened the social conscience of many people throughout our country. It plays an important role in schools, as it provides children with good models and helps them to grow up as model citizens. Jack McConnell made that point when he spoke about ideas for tuck shops.

It is not enough to make fine speeches in the Parliament—we want the Parliament to take practical steps. I welcome the fact that Patricia Ferguson has set up a cross-party group on fair trade. I believe that the group will be successful and will act as a platform for propelling forward fair trade ideas in the Parliament. It will give us the opportunity to interact successfully with the Scottish Government and allow the Government to move forward ideas in health, procurement and community involvement.

Tonight's debate has been successful and acted as a clarion call not only to the Parliament but to groups throughout Scotland. It has talked up the success of fair trade and moved us forward into the future, to ensure a better life for all throughout the world.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party 6:03 pm, 3rd March 2010

I echo members' sentiments and thank Bill Butler for securing today's debate. I have been encouraged by members' supportive comments, which show that fair trade is above politics and has cross-party support in Scotland. I understand that the inaugural meeting of the cross-party group on fair trade will take place after the debate; I wish it well. I welcome the establishment of the group and look forward to hearing the outcomes of the meeting.

As we know, many more people now know the meaning of fair trade and understand its importance. That has been no more evident than at the events in which I have participated as part of Fairtrade fortnight. Those have included addressing the fair trade experience in Glasgow, which was sponsored by the co-operative movement. Bill Butler was right to salute the work of the co-op movement, especially in this area. At the event in Glasgow, I met people from Stonelaw school and the daughter of Jim Kelly, who has just spoken—although I am not sure that he is paying attention. I also attended a fair trade fashion show in Linlithgow, at which the models were pupils from the local fair trade group. At the Glasgow event, fashion was modelled by pupils from Strathaven academy.

In paying tribute to the excellent work that has been done on fair trade across West Lothian, Mary Mulligan will recognise the challenges that arise in relation to local authorities. Marlyn Glen identified that what happens in local authorities is a key area in which we can move forward.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Haitham Hasasneh, a livelihood development officer who works with olive oil producers in Palestine. He has been taking part in events throughout the country, courtesy of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum. My fair trade swap has been to Palestinian olive oil. Gavin Brown talked about quality, and I can testify to the quality of olive oil from Palestine.

Fairtrade fortnight is drawing to a close, but that should not mean that we forget the cause. As members have said, promoting fair trade is a year-round challenge. Events such as this debate help to raise awareness, and the message seems to be getting across.

It is a pity that Jack McConnell has not stayed to hear my response to the debate, because I want to address a point that he made about fair trade and school tuck shops. I make it clear that there is flexibility in legislation to allow schools to sell products that are not normally allowed, such as fair trade confectionary, including chocolate—Robin Harper alluded to that. The Minister for Children and Early Years, Adam Ingram, wrote to all directors of education on 11 February to highlight the flexibility that exists in regulations to enable schools to achieve a balance between providing for healthy, balanced diets and addressing wider issues, such as support for fair trade. The minister's letter also highlighted the flexibility to ensure that social and cultural activities can be enjoyed and celebrated. Fair trade is about social responsibility in that regard. I hope that members will ensure that people are aware of the minister's letter.

It is important that we recognise the commitments to convert to fair trade that have been made by global companies such as Cadbury, Nestlé, Green and Black's and—recently—Ben and Jerry's. There has been a big shift in recent years. Large retailers and independent shops around Scotland stock a diverse range of fairly traded products and ensure that there is more choice. Such companies are helping to mainstream fair trade into our daily lives. As a result, the Fairtrade Foundation has confirmed another increase in the value of fair trade sales to almost £800 million in 2009. Two out of three Scots continue to buy the same number of fair trade products despite the current economic climate, and 57 per cent of Scots buy fair trade products regularly.

That is a good baseline from which to build as we take our country towards fair trade nation status. The programme is gaining momentum and good progress has been made. I am delighted that all of Scotland's six cities are already Fairtrade. A number of universities, schools and local authorities have also achieved Fairtrade status. However, we cannot be complacent; there is still a great deal of work to be done. The Scottish Government is serious about making Scotland a fair trade country and remains committed to driving forward progress to achieve that. I commend the efforts of churches, faith groups, charities, schools and individuals in promoting the benefits of fair trade. I was particularly interested to hear about the glow fair trade group, which David Whitton mentioned.

I hope that the strong fair trade movement in Scotland continues to flourish. The Scottish Fair Trade Forum has launched its final push campaign, which is about finishing the work that is needed to become a fair trade nation and moving on to the next stage. To achieve the fair trade nation criteria, we must treble the number of Fairtrade towns in Scotland, which is no small task. However, it is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum that we have reached this point. I look forward to continued collaboration between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Fair Trade Forum. There is great excitement about the challenge of exploring how we can best support each other in the final push. The forum has just produced its call to action and has yet to approach Government, but I encourage it to do so.

It is not simply about raising awareness in Scotland; producers in developing countries are beginning to realise what fair trade can do for them. Fair trade can bring us closer together. Countries such as Malawi, which I visited a few weeks ago, are becoming increasingly engaged. During a visit to the Scotland-Malawi business group I saw for myself producers' hard work and dedication and witnessed the lives that they lead. Many producers live below the poverty line, but there is hope. Malawi produces tea, nuts, sugar and many other products that people in Scotland consume in some quantity.

I was interested in the point that was made about rice. There is an issue to do with procurement in that regard. I was also interested in Robin Harper's points about the health service. Scotland has reached a certain level and status in the context of fair trade, but we must push much harder and ensure that there is depth and range in our activity. I look forward to taking the issues forward.

We have achieved a lot, but the fight goes on. I hope that members of the Parliament will continue to support fair trade here and in their constituencies to help to end the poverty that producers face.

The fair trade movement is a campaign for fairness and solidarity. It is a shared responsibility for all global citizens who want the world to be fairer. Fair trade is trade with dignity, meaningful trade and sustainable trade. It is a deal but, as Gil Paterson said, it is a fair deal.

I am delighted to respond to the debate for the Government. I congratulate Bill Butler on bringing the subject to the Parliament for debate. I wish the cross-party group every success not only for tonight but in a good future campaign to take Scotland and the Parliament to Fairtrade status.

Meeting closed at 18:10.