Colin Smyth MSP
Colin Smyth MSP

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth, who is chairman of the Dumfries and Galloway Regional Fairtrade Steering Group, as well as convener of the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on Fair Trade, has used a debate in the Scottish Parliament to praise the work of local Fair Trade groups.

The debate took place last week, just two weeks after Fairtrade Fortnight.

Speaking in the debating chamber, Colin Smyth said: “As convener of the Parliament’s cross-party group on fair trade, as well as being the chair of the Dumfries and Galloway regional Fairtrade steering group, I am passionate about fair trade, but it is the local groups, the businesses and the producers in our communities that make Fairtrade Fortnight happen.

“After the past tough two years of us all being separated from our friends and families, it was great to once again get out and about and take part in person in Fairtrade fortnight events. I was lucky enough to attend a number of events in my region, including the wonderful Fairtrade big brew in the Dumfriesshire village of Dunscore. Per head of population, it must have more fair traders than anywhere in the country.

“I saw at first hand just how tirelessly local volunteers are working to promote fair trade, despite the challenges that we have all faced.

“I want to say a heartfelt thank you to every volunteer, shop, organisation and school across the country that is helping to deliver trade justice for so many vulnerable farmers and workers in developing countries, week in and week out.”

The local MSP also highlighted the work of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum.

He continued: “The forum does an invaluable job in supplying information, knowledge, training and resources to local fair trade groups. It promotes fair trade businesses here in Scotland and has supported partnerships with producers during the pandemic.

“It also supports producers worldwide, and has Fairtrade producer representatives from Malawi and Rwanda on its board. The work of the forum led to the step change in fair trade activity that resulted in Scotland securing fair trade nation status almost a decade ago. That remains vital as we take the next step on the fair trade journey.

“The fair trade principles of better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for workers have never been more important. Fair trade challenges the injustice and unfairness of conventional trade. It is also at the heart of the fight against climate change. Trade justice and climate justice work hand in hand.

“During Fairtrade fortnight, the forum arranged for producers from Ghana, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Malawi and Palestine to take part in online events, including one with our own cross-party group. During those events, I was struck by stories of the devastating impact of climate change on some of our most vulnerable developing countries. Farmers of crops such as tea, coffee and cocoa, who are already battling the impact of volatile market prices and rising production costs with little power in the multimillion pound supply chains that they contribute to, are now having to deal with more freak weather, extreme rainfall, prolonged dry seasons and the prevalence of plant disease in their crops.

“By ensuring that farmers and producers in the global south are paid a fair price for their goods, the Fair Trade Forum is a lifeline for those producers, allowing farmers to be more resilient and to reduce their own carbon footprint without worrying about how to afford medicine, food or their children’s education and housing.”

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