Fairtrade Fortnight

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 2 March 2016.

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Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-15422, in the name of Fiona McLeod, on Fairtrade fortnight. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes that Fairtrade Fortnight 2016 will have the theme, Sit down for breakfast, stand up for farmers!; understands that it will run from 29 February to 13 March and will be celebrated across Scotland, including in the Fairtrade-status local authority of East Dunbartonshire and its Fairtrade towns such as Lenzie, Bearsden and Milngavie; believes that the fortnight will bring together shops, cafés and delicatessens in these communities with farmers and producers in similar-sized towns across the world who are being paid a fair price for their foodstuffs thanks to the work of the activists from the Fairtrade network; supports the continuing status of Scotland as a Fairtrade nation and the underpinning and celebration of the country’s achievements; believes that these inspire innovative and groundbreaking new ways to make trade fairer for farmers, and notes the view that public bodies and private businesses should be encouraged to procure fairly-traded products.

Photo of Fiona McLeod Fiona McLeod Scottish National Party

I thank all the members who signed my motion to allow it to come before Parliament in what will be my final members’ business debate.

It is fitting that the debate is about fair trade. I have worked on Fairtrade fortnight, which is from 23 February to 13 March, in Parliament and in my constituency during my years in Parliament.

The tagline of this year’s Fairtrade fortnight is “Sit down for breakfast, stand up for farmers!”, which is an important message to send out across the world. “Sit down for breakfast” chimes with the Government’s belief in having a healthy lifestyle and starting the day right with a healthy breakfast. The tagline combines the idea of having a healthy breakfast with having a healthy respect for farmers around the world.

Scotland has a great reputation in fair trade. We became one of the first fair trade nations in 2013. A majority of our local authorities have now achieved fair trade status. My own local authority of East Dunbartonshire achieved it in 2007 and numerous towns and villages around Scotland have also achieved it. I have been doing a lot of travelling around the country in the past couple of months and, as I drive into a town or village, it is wonderful to see its name emblazoned with pride over its Fairtrade status symbol. In my constituency, that includes Lenzie, Bearsden and Milngavie.

What is amazing about the way in which Scotland has approached fair trade is the fact that we have done it as a community and across generations. Schools can achieve Fairtrade status. Churches were among the first organisations to get involved in the fair trade movement. In my constituency, eight schools have achieved Fairtrade status.

I think that I have said “my constituency” about three times, Presiding Officer, and I am not going to stop saying it because I have only three weeks left to do it.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I think we will indulge you.

Photo of Fiona McLeod Fiona McLeod Scottish National Party

Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. In three weeks’ time, at midnight, I cease to be the member of the Scottish Parliament for Strathkelvin and Bearsden so, if members will indulge me, perhaps I can take this opportunity to thank my constituents for supporting me during the past five years.

There is something very special about representing the constituency that I have lived in all my days because it means representing neighbours, family and friends, and it has been a great privilege for me to be able to do that since 2011.

In my constituency of Strathkelvin and Bearsden, a large number of events are going on during Fairtrade fortnight and I will mention just a couple of them. Last weekend, on 28 February, Lenzie held its big breakfast as a Fairtrade town for the third or fourth time in a row. This year, thankfully, they did not ask me to judge the cakes. My friends will know that I am not averse to a nice bit of cake, but being faced with 30 cakes before 10 o’clock in the morning starts off feeling great and ends up feeling less so. I felt sorry for the people whose cakes came at the end because I am sure that I did not judge them to the same standard. This year, they had a colouring competition instead, which was much more sensible.

The Bearsden and Milngavie fair trade group had a stall in the foyer of one of my local supermarkets. The supermarket already stocks and sells Fairtrade products, but that was an opportunity for the Bearsden and Milngavie fair trade group to highlight not only the work that the supermarket is doing but, more important, the work that Fairtrade does to support farmers and producers all around the world.

I cannot not mention the Balmore Trust coach house, in my constituency, which was set up over 25 years ago, long before most folk understood what fair trade is. The Balmore Trust coach house has raised more than £1 million through selling fairly trade goods—that is £1 million raised in my constituency. [Applause.] More important, that £1 million has been reinvested in farmers and workers around the world to give them a decent wage for a decent day’s work.

There are other initiatives across my constituency that have been trailblazers, including Fairtrade nurseries. In the past couple of years, we have begun to take those for granted. We have seen Fairtrade flags outside our primary schools, and we are increasingly hearing about Fairtrade nurseries. Those were piloted in East Dunbartonshire, and their success ensured that we now see them throughout Scotland.

Another thing that was piloted in East Dunbartonshire in 2010 is school uniforms made from fairly traded cotton. I have talked about that before in Parliament, and the work that some of my constituents have done on that has been really important. It goes back to what I said earlier about fair trade reaching across generations. When a child goes to primary school and everything—right down to the basics of their uniform—comes with a Fairtrade label on it, that means that our youngest children are talking about what fair trade means. They now have Fairtrade school uniforms as well as Fairtrade footballs.

I remember the day that I was made a minister. When you are made a minister, you get all the abuse—the Opposition parties do not single anyone else out—but I got no abuse and the Labour Party members commented on the fact that, just the week before, I had been at a Fairtrade event for Fairtrade footballs. However, I have gone off at a tangent there.

When our young people go to school and find that their school uniform has a Fairtrade label on it, and they play football with a Fairtrade football, that is really important. They are learning at the earliest stage that, no matter how much we talk about injustice and inequalities in Scotland, when they wear their school uniform and play with their football, those have not been made by child labour in other parts of the world. That is a very important lesson for our young folk to learn. That is in no way to downplay the inequalities that exist in Scotland, but it puts into perspective for our young folk how awful life can be for young people around the world.

I took part in the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill debate, although procurement is not really my subject. Nevertheless, it was important—in that debate and in the resulting act—that we talked about ethical procurement and fair trade in procurement. Perhaps that is one of the best examples of how this Parliament and this Government understand that, through fair trade, we can ensure that everything that we do is done with respect for people not just here in Scotland but around the world. [Applause.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I hope that you feel that you were suitably indulged, and not just because part of your constituency was in mine before the boundary changes.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I welcome this debate on encouraging fair trade in Scotland and congratulate Fiona McLeod on securing it. I join her in congratulating all the individuals and businesses who have endeavoured to support farmers and producers around the world and who have endorsed the fair trade ethos. That involves, of course, ensuring that the process of producing goods protects workers’ conditions and that the trade of those goods preserves the workers’ environment and supports them financially.

In 2006, the then Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly Government collaboratively agreed criteria for fair trade nation status. The criteria required that we achieve a range of nationwide targets set by the Scottish Executive. Those included encouraging the take-up of fair trade groups in local authorities and in higher education institutions, achieving fair trade status in our cities and promoting fair trade products as a natural choice for all consumers. They also required a commitment from this Parliament to make annual statements in support of fair trade as a principle, to mark Fairtrade fortnight each year and to encourage faith groups, schools, trade unions and business networks to pledge their support.

The conclusion of the 2012 report that measured progress in Scotland against the criteria states:

“the evidence admitted demonstrates in the opinion of the Forum that Scotland has now met the criteria agreed between the Welsh Assembly Government and the Scottish Executive 2006 and can therefore declare itself a Fair Trade Nation.”

That is certainly something to celebrate and should encourage members here to continue to raise awareness in our constituencies of the availability of fair trade options.

In my local community, we have the excellent Goldenacre fair trade, which runs a regular stall at Inverleith St Serf’s parish church in Ferry Road. The stall has been in the Traidcraft top seller category for three years in a row. It also accepts food donations to be distributed to the Tenants and Residents in Muirhouse group, which runs a community shop and food bank in a neighbouring community. Its purpose in north Edinburgh is to provide high-quality and fresh products to the community, to promote the fair trade ethos and to give crucial support to low-income families in the area. Its tireless work was recognised in 2015 with accolades at the Lord Provost fair trade awards. The annual award, now in its 10th year, recognises the differences that residents, businesses and schools make in promoting fair trade in Edinburgh. The award categories include “fair trade achievement” and “fair trade faith community”.

This debate falls in a week of awareness campaigns that look to highlight the difficulties faced by farmers across the world in an increasingly competitive global market and seek to show how local solutions can provide an answer to global problems. The “sit down for breakfast, stand up for farmers!” initiative draws public attention to the many millions of farmers and workers in developing countries who strive to produce our food but live with uncertainty about where their next meal is coming from.

This is a week in which businesses can improve their fair trade credentials by highlighting, through social media, their achievements in promoting products and their commitment to the fair trade ethos in the long term. Campaigners and businesses up and down the country will hold hundreds of breakfast events as part of Fairtrade fortnight 2016, with the #youeattheyeat hashtag used to spread the word on social media.

The Fairtrade Foundation knows that consumers value businesses that have the ethics of fair trade, social responsibility and the wellbeing of farmers and workers as a central feature of their activities. By doing so, they demonstrate that profit can and should work to the benefit of all and that there should be no room for exploitation. According to the Fairtrade Foundation report of 2013, half the world’s hungry people—nearly 400 million—are estimated to live on small farms. Without the protection of fair pay and conditions, those farmers struggle to eat.

We can play a small part in changing their circumstances simply by making a different consumer choice. If we have the means to, we should choose fair trade and use the pound in our pockets to improve the wellbeing of millions throughout the world.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I, too, thank Fiona McLeod for securing the debate. I acknowledge her long-standing commitment to fair trade and congratulate her on making the debate possible. On the subject of congratulations, if I can draw on another of her lifelong passions, I make her aware that Stewart Bain of Orkney library was voted librarian of the year. I am sure that she will join me in offering him her congratulations.

I participated in a similar debate two years ago, which was led by George Adam. At that stage, we were looking forward to Scotland achieving fair trade nation status. This year’s theme, as Fiona McLeod indicated, is “Sit down for breakfast, stand up for farmers!” Given the mess that is being made of common agricultural policy payments at the moment, I am tempted to point out that some farmers and crofters are making much the same plea. I was sorry that Fiona McLeod and I were unable to organise a fair trade breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day, and it would probably have helped me to get through this morning’s Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body meeting.

As other members have said, the fair trade movement is going from strength to strength right across Scotland, so I will, like them, draw on examples from my constituency. Westray and Papa Westray have been in the vanguard. I had the privilege of helping them to launch their bid for fair trade island status shortly after my election in 2007. On that occasion, the genuine enthusiasm for the endeavour that existed among members of the community of all ages was very evident.

That is epitomised by the progress that has been made by Westray Chutney. I think that Ann Rendall is now the first Orkney Fairtrade food producer. She has gained Fairtrade accreditation for most of the products in her range, which is a real achievement that shows genuine commitment. Therefore, it is no surprise that Westray junior high school attained fair achiever status—I think that it had done so by the time of the last fair trade debate in which I participated. Then, it was the highest award that it was possible for a school to attain. Since then, it has won the Margaret Demidecka award, which is the United Kingdom award for the best Fairtrade school initiative.

Not to be outdone, pupils at Kirkwall grammar school, which is another Fairtrade school in my constituency, have also been busy. Theo Ogbhembe remains the driving force at KGS. Last week, along with the local primary schools—Glaitness and Papdale—KGS was able to host a visit by Pamela L’Intelligent, who spent time with pupils. She is one of the many remarkable women who are involved in the fair trade movement. She started work at 13 in a sweatshop in Mauritius and learned English by listening to the BBC World Service. She had never been out of Mauritius before she came to Scotland last year for Fairtrade fortnight. I am absolutely convinced that her engagement with the young people in Orkney will have a real and lasting impact on them and their commitment to fair trade in the years ahead.

That commitment extends far more widely in Orkney. It is worth putting on record the efforts of the NorthLink Ferries staff, who have been using Fairtrade and local goods as part of their hospitality offering. I understand that they are wearing Koolskools Fairtrade cotton polo shirts and that they will host the “Ferry to a Fairtrade Future” event on 10 March. Those endeavours are all very commendable in spreading the word.

I also pay tribute to Orkney Islands Council for the role that it has played in bringing together what is a genuine community effort.

Pamela L’Intelligent claims that fair trade changed her life. According to Theo Ogbhembe,

“it’s putting schools at the heart of the movement for change; it’s great for young people because it’s fun and is part of something happening all over the world; and it’s great for farmers, who are earning a fair price, and feeling the support of people on the other side of the world.”

I again thank Fiona McLeod. I do not know whether her speech this evening was her final speech, but I certainly welcome her efforts on this issue and others on which we share a common interest. I thank all those who are involved in events in Orkney and across Scotland, and I wish the movement and the people whom it supports continued success in the future.

Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

I, too, thank Fiona McLeod for bringing the debate to the chamber. I was convener of the cross-party group on fair trade for a number of years, and I have led previous debates on the issue. We had a full house for Fiona McLeod’s speech, so I wondered where all those members were for the four years in which I led the debate. I am taking that entirely personally and will take it up with them at a later date.

Fair trade is a very important issue to Fiona McLeod, whom I have known for a very long time. She has been a mother figure to me—I mean that in the best way, not in an negative way. She has scolded me when I have needed to be scolded and has made me feel better when I have needed a shoulder to cry on. If I am lucky enough to represent the good people of Paisley after May, I will dearly miss her in the chamber.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Mr Adam, have you heard the adage about stopping digging?

Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

Perhaps I should start talking about fair trade now.

Fairtrade fortnight is extremely important, because it is the focus for everyone involved in the movement in Scotland to get together. Indeed, it was during a previous Fairtrade fortnight that we announced our becoming a fair trade nation.

Interestingly, the fair trade movement in Scotland has moved on from churches and various religious organisations doing things out of the back of cars, selling goods at fêtes and so on, to having shops that specialise in such goods, as well as mainstream shops selling them. I think that seeing such a change in my lifetime is incredible.

As has been mentioned, one of the things that this Fairtrade fortnight is focusing on is the “Sit down for breakfast, stand up for farmers!” campaign. Fiona McLeod talked about good healthy breakfasts, but I have to say that, when I watched my wife Stacey eat a Fairtrade banana fritter first thing this morning, my thought was that it was not precisely what I would call healthy. It might be very good for the people who are trading those goods, but I do not think that it was a healthy breakfast. Nevertheless, my wife is doing her bit for Fairtrade fortnight, and she will probably eat that as often as possible.

On its website, the Fairtrade Foundation, in relation to the campaign, quotes Martin Luther King, who said:

“Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half of the world.”

As always, Martin Luther King summarises everything in a nice line that we can easily quote decades later, but he makes clear the situation that people all over the world are in. Large businesses have been terrible in how they have worked with people, and the conditions that those people work in, too, are terrible. The fair trade premium offers such individuals the chance to rebuild and, indeed, to educate their communities. During my time as the convener of the CPG on fair trade, we spoke to women’s organisations and heard that women are not encouraged to get an education. However, as a result of the fair trade premium, people had managed to set up schools and ensure that they got not only that education but a trade, and that they were able to trade their goods fairly.

At a very basic level, that is what fair trade is all about. Yes—it is great that Scotland is a fair trade nation, but the question is what we do and how we deal with that. We are telling the world that we will not stand back and allow big business to dictate things. A classic example is sporting goods. The sponsorship of major sporting organisations automatically makes such products look better—indeed, it makes them look cool. However, an £80 pair of trainers—I might be talking 1980s prices here—costs only £10 or £20 to make. That is morally wrong, and we need to encourage everyone else to look closely at such issues when major sporting events are held. I know that the Glasgow Commonwealth games, for example, were a fair trade event. I certainly think that sporting endeavours and sports organisations are the way forward and how we can take all this to the next stage.

I thank Fiona McLeod for bringing this debate to the chamber and for all her help, support and guidance over the years. I know that I have not been easy to work with and deal with, but she has been an absolute saint.

Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

In conclusion, I should say that this is all about our place in the world and about Scotland showing the world that we want to be part of it, that we want to make a difference in people’s lives and that that is part of who we are.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

I, too, congratulate Fiona McLeod on what has been a very good parliamentary career and on securing time in Parliament for this debate.

Governments around the world are looking to trade as a driver of economic growth and poverty reduction, and trade is central to the sustainable development goals that make up the new global poverty reduction and sustainability framework that has been adopted. However, as we are all aware, trade can be something of a blunt tool that can harm as well as help poverty reduction. We must ensure that the policies of government, be it at local, Scotland or United Kingdom level, join up with those goals to ensure that we do not undermine the needs of the poorest people in our world. Otherwise, we could be giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

Trade also brings something that might be even more important than poverty reduction: it empowers people and encourages entrepreneurs to start smallholdings and take control of their own lives. By ensuring that such farmers, many of whom live in the least-developed countries in our world, can produce and sell their goods to fair and decent standards, we also give them a better chance in life. Those farmers are usually members of co-operatives that have their own elected representatives, which facilitates decision making on how profits are spent. That system has had tangible benefits for small-scale farmers, and profits that have been raised have often contributed to building schools and roads and other structural improvements—including, of course, new water wells and irrigation—that have been prioritised by the community.

Fairtrade products often taste better. I refer particularly to the bunches of small yellow bananas in cellophane bags, which always seem to be better than the other ones. I do not know why.

The effects of fair trade practices are clear for all to see. There are now 1,210 Fairtrade-certified producer organisations in 74 countries worldwide, and more than 1.5 million farmers and workers in Fairtrade-certified producer organisations.

Scotland’s contribution to that effort is notable. In order to be recognised as a fair trade nation, Scotland had to meet a number of criteria to demonstrate that people had sufficient knowledge of and interest in fair trade. As part of that process, it was found that 100 per cent of counties and local authority areas had active fair trade groups that were working towards Fairtrade status, and that at least 55 per cent of local authorities and all cities achieved Fairtrade status. Highlands and Islands, which is my region, is a fair trade zone, and Oban, which is my local town, became a Fairtrade town in 2006.

As a fair trade nation, Scotland has been a key contributor, which has helped to maintain momentum for the cause. The Scottish Fair Trade Forum has been crucial in engaging businesses and suppliers across Scotland in embracing the principles of fair trade. I am pleased to see that the West Coast Delicatessen in Ullapool is on a four-page list of fair trade suppliers, which goes on to include Marks and Spencer in Inverness, for example.

The situation should not be taken for granted. Many farmers who supply necessities such as food and clothing for consumers—they are basic needs that we have come to take for granted—are too often left without those items themselves. Producers are sometimes forced to work for genuinely exploitative employers without the essential employment rights or, indeed, human rights that we have been accustomed to in the western world. Fundamentally, fair trade provides vital protection and support for those producers. Producers have even gone as far as to say that farming would be impossible without it.

Fair trade does exactly what the name suggests; it is about making trade fair and ensuring decent working conditions and wages. That, in turn, leads to individuals having more control over their own lives and gives them dignity and respect.

Every member of the Scottish Parliament, member of the public and consumer worldwide has the opportunity to contribute to the effort by adapting their everyday choices. I very much hope that people will continue to do so.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I thank Fiona McLeod for lodging the motion and securing the debate. I know that she does not like praise, but nonetheless I hope that she will indulge us, as this is her last members’ business debate, although her speech was not her last one—I am sure that she will make contributions in the next few weeks.

I concur with what George Adam said. Fiona McLeod has been a great example, particularly to first-timers in the Parliament such as me and those who seek to represent a constituency. If we were half as good as her at doing that, mentioning our constituencies and looking after their interests, we would be doing not a bad job. I say to her well done for being at the forefront of the issue that we are discussing, and I thank her for setting a very good example for first-timers such as me.

I want to put into context the issue that Fiona McLeod has raised. People still suffer a huge amount of poverty that we can sometimes forget about. Of course we have poverty in Scotland, and many of us see that in and around our constituencies, but I am talking about the absolute, abject poverty that one third of the world still faces. Two billion people still live on less than $2 a day. That is unbelievable. A third of the entire human race lives on less than $2 a day. It is almost unimaginable how people make a living or a life with such small amounts. As we know from many reports, particularly those by Oxfam, there is plenty of wealth around the world to compensate for that.

Fair trade fits into our ambitions, as the First Minister highlighted last summer, in terms of the implementation of the sustainable development goals, or global goals. They are applicable not just to the developing world but here in Scotland too, and the First Minister was resolute in saying that we must follow through and implement those goals in Scotland. Fair trade is part and parcel of that. As many members have said, we are one of only two fair trade nations in the world and, as Jamie McGrigor mentioned, that was not the result of a simple tick-box exercise; robust and quite challenging criteria had to be met in order to achieve that status.

Many members have mentioned the theme of this year’s Fairtrade fortnight, “Sit down for breakfast, stand up for farmers!” I had the great pleasure of being at the launch of the schools event for Fairtrade fortnight in Govan’s Pearce Institute, where we were joined by many schools from up and down the country to celebrate and launch Fairtrade fortnight. Schools and young people are definitely the key to the fair trade movement and to ensuring that its flame continues to burn brightly.

There are 1,000 schools in Scotland that are part of the Fairtrade schools scheme, and 400 schools already have Fairtrade status. When I spoke to the primary school and high school children, I was amazed by the number of schools that now have a fair trade society, a fair trade club, fair trade stalls or a fair trade tuck shop. It is incredible, and the young people’s understanding of fair trade and why it is important is much greater than when I was in school. It was not that long ago, but when I was in school I did not know much about fair trade. It was hardly mentioned at all when I was growing up, but now many schools and a lot of our children seem to know about the value of fair trade and why it is such an important thing to be involved in.

It is important that our children know about fair trade, because often they are the ones who challenge adults’ attitudes. I spoke to a father who was there with his daughter, who was picking up an award for the work that she had done on fair trade. He told me that when they go shopping it is his daughter who tells him to pick that bag of rice or those tea bags or that chocolate, because they are Fairtrade products, as opposed to other products. The children are very much shaping the adults’ attitudes, which is why getting young people into the fair trade movement is important.

Another reason is that fair trade is about fairness for children. Although we are standing up for farmers, many farmers who are part of fair trade schemes have told me that they do not want fair trade simply because they are greedy or want more money, or even because it is inherently fair—although that is a respectable reason to back fair trade—but because of their children. Every farmer to whom I have spoken has mentioned their children’s education. When I was in Malawi, farmers said that they wanted fair trade because they want to send their children to school and they have to pay school fees and pay for jotters and uniforms and other things. It is always about the children. We should support fair trade because it is the fair thing to do, but the connection between children here understanding fair trade and children who are getting education in some of the most underdeveloped parts of the world is something that we sometimes lose sight of.

The Scottish Government is pleased to support a number of Fairtrade products, and not just the usual ones. We often hear about chocolate, coffee and bananas, and I am delighted that, through our international development fund, we have supported Just Trading Scotland; I know that many members, including George Adam, have been involved in promoting that organisation. It promotes Kilombero rice from northern Malawi and it has created the 90kg rice challenge, which asks schools, colleges and other groups to sell 90kg of rice, which is the amount that a Malawian rice farmer would need to sell to allow him or her to send a child to secondary school for one year. Just Trading Scotland has recently rebranded its product. It looks great and it is in some retail shops up and down the country, which is good.

Not only are there new food products, but there are non-food products. Bala Sport, the Fairtrade football company, is starting to make inroads as its footballs become more readily available. When the Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, Jamie Hepburn, and I launched the walking football network just the other day, we used Bala Fairtrade footballs.

Presiding Officer, to end my remarks, there are many reasons to support fair trade. There is the inherent fairness, most definitely, but there is also creating a better and fairer society, not just for today’s farmers but for the next generation of farmers—the next generation of adults in the developing world. Changing our shopping habits is one of the easiest things for us to do. The consequences of doing so are certainly far reaching.

We in the Scottish Government are delighted to support Fiona McLeod’s motion and I am delighted that she lodged it. I encourage everybody who is listening or watching, including members here in the debating chamber, to continue to buy Fairtrade products for the betterment of our society and for a fairer world.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Thank you, minister, and thank you to all members who stayed and participated in this evening’s debate. That concludes Fiona McLeod’s last members’ business debate, which was on the subject of Fairtrade fortnight.

Meeting closed at 17:40.