Fairtrade Fortnight

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

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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.]