Left to right: Hilary Lawson, Chair of Inverness Fair Trade Group; Cllr Hamish Wood, Chair of the Fair Trade Strategic Committee; Jo Scott, Chairperson of Ullapool Fairtrade Group
The Fairtrade map of Scotland has expanded dramatically following the award of Fairtrade Zone status to the Highlands at the end of September.
Fairtrade Zone status is awarded by the UK Fairtrade Foundation and recognises a commitment to supporting Fair Trade and using products with the Fairtrade Mark across a local authority. The Highlands is the largest local authority area in Scotland and the United Kingdom.
Sparsely populated, dominated by mountains and the size of Belgium, earning Fairtrade Zone status for such a large area has not been without its challenges. The key, according to Gordon Morrison of Highland Council, has been networking, supported by a certain amount of technological ingenuity. ‘We knew that there was a lot of Fair Trade activity happening across the Highland area’, he says, ‘but we didn’t know what.’ The Council set up a strategic group and used technologies such as videoconferencing and teleconferencing to connect communities to build up a picture of Fair Trade activity from the bottom up.
‘We always expected that this was going to take time’, says Gordon. ‘We deliberately took a communities-based approach, enabling and encouraging what was happening locally rather than directing.’ At the same time the Council recognised that the number of local authorities having Fairtrade Zone status is an important part of the Fair Trade Nation campaign. ‘We always appreciated there was a certain amount of pressure to get on with it’, adds Gordon with a laugh.
Having run a community-based campaign, the Council sees the award of Fairtrade Zone status as recognition for the hard work that has been done locally and encouragement for communities to press on and embed support for Fair Trade across the Highlands. ‘We were honest in our submission [to the Fairtrade Foundation]’, says Gordon, ‘we knew there were gaps’, citing companies and schools as areas for future attention.
‘Fairtrade Zone status is part of the momentum in making progress’, comments Gordon. ‘It’s been a big boost and hopefully it will encourage communities to go farther and deeper in their support for Fair Trade.’