Fairtrade Dumfries wins praise

Dumfries has won praise in the Scottish Parliament for its efforts to become a Fairtrade town.

South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine spoken at Holyrood to laud Dumfries for its successful campaign.

She told parliamentarians that many years of effort by organisations such as churches and schools had paid off, with the community formally accepted into the scheme from last weekend.

Ms McAlpine spoke in a Holyrood debate welcoming Fairtrade Fortnight, which is currently underway, and backing the fact that the initiative supports millions of farmers and workers in developing countries.

She pointed out that Dumfries was the latest recruit to the cause in the area – Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbright, Dunscore and Wigtown already have Fairtrade status. Right across Dumfries and Galloway, she added, being a Fairtrade community was about more than moral choice – it was actually good for business. “In particular, we have noticed that this is the case for the tourism community,” she said.

“For example, bed and breakfast businesses have reported that they get extra bookings if they can offer visitors Fairtrade tea and coffee and other products. It makes good sense.”

She referred to the celebrations in Dumfries last weekend to mark the town’s new status, including the Fairtrade cake at the former Bakers Oven in the High Street and a service of celebration at St John’s Church.

The latter, she said, had been particularly fitting as churches had been some of the strongest supporters of the campaign.

“It is a first class example of ecumenical activity that has brought together members of the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church, the Quakers, the Episcopalians, the Baptists and the United Reform Church, which together make up the majority of Christian worshippers in Dumfries.”

She also praised schools in the town for playing an important part, saying: “Children have an acute understanding of fairness and what it means. Children in particular understand that it is wrong that the small pleasures we enjoy can cause pain and suffering to others thousands of miles away.”

Ms McAlpine also pointed out that chocolate production in the developed world often involved child trafficking, with the United Nations Children’s Fund reckoning that 200,000 children in west and central Africa, where most cocoa was produced, were abused in this way every year.

“We often talk about chocolate being a guilty pleasure, but I am afraid in this case that is true. But there has been progress, thanks to the Fairtrade movement.”