Fairtrade Fortnight

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

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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.