Today, in a hybrid meeting of the Scottish Parliament, Ruth Maguire MSP contributed remotely to Clare Adamson’s Member Business debate on the Fairtrade Pledge.

Speaking in the debate Ruth said:

“I congratulate Clare Adamson on recognising the fair trade pledge and bringing this important issue to the chamber. I thank Gordon MacDonald for opening the debate.

My constituency of Cunninghame South sits within North Ayrshire. In 2014, through the hard work of the North Ayrshire Fairtrade zone group, supported by the local authority, North Ayrshire was recognised as a Fairtrade zone. I am pleased to say that that status has been awarded again this year, for the eighth year running. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the members of the North Ayrshire Fairtrade zone group, and I recognise the hard work and determination of everyone who has been involved in making that happen. Thank you.

When we discuss fair trade, people automatically think about products such as coffee, bananas and chocolate. However, it is not just about the products; it is about the people. Buying Fairtrade means rights for workers, safer working conditions and fairer pay, and consumers can pride themselves on buying high-quality, ethically produced goods.

However, despite the efforts of groups such as the North Ayrshire Fairtrade zone, a vast number of products continue to be grown or made by workers who are not treated fairly. Those workers often produce goods in dangerous conditions and are denied the same access to markets as other producers.

We are a nation of chocolate lovers: the United Kingdom chocolate market is worth billions of pounds, and demand is growing yearly. It leaves a bitter taste to learn that cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana live in abject poverty, with the Fairtrade Foundation reporting farmers earning as little as 75p per day—the same amount as one bar of chocolate that is sold here costs.

It is also reported that, as is often the case, women bear the greatest burden, having fewer rights than men. They not only work long hours in the cocoa fields to earn less than men; they are expected to look after their children and to manage extra tasks such as carrying water and household chores.

In today’s more informed and connected world, we cannot be ignorant of the truth. The fair trade pledge, along with Fairtrade fortnight, gives a stage for thousands of individuals, businesses and organisations across Scotland to come together and share the stories of the people who, like the cocoa farmers, work hard to produce goods but are exploited and underpaid, and to join together and reject those practices. I urge everyone to choose the world we want and to highlight the inequality and injustice that is felt by those people.

Education and awareness are powerful tools. It is important that, while we advocate for change, children develop their understanding of how fair trade benefits farmers and workers across the globe. A number of schools in my constituency are registered as Fairtrade schools. Secondary and primary pupils alike are striving to achieve awards, ranging from understanding how their school uses Fairtrade products to fully embedding fair trade into their daily school life and working to raise awareness of fair trade in their local community. I express my gratitude to the teachers in those schools, who have played key roles in informing the next generation of the benefits of fair trade, normalising equality and making lives better.

Buying Fairtrade is easy. There are more than 6,000 Fairtrade products. I encourage everyone to look for the Fairtrade mark when shopping. Choosing Fairtrade means standing with others for fairness and equality, allowing farmers to tackle poverty and build resilience to the climate crisis that we face.

Everyone can change the world for the better by businesses signing up to the fair trade pledge, consumers choosing to buy Fairtrade products and all of us educating our children to do the same.”

Watch Ruth’s speech here: