Fairtrade Fortnight

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 2nd March 2016.

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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.