Fairtrade Fortnight

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

Alert me about debates like this

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.