Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Honest Toun’s Fair Trade Status Is Fairly Perplexing

Musselburgh’s proving to be a great place to fetch up. I am an East Lothian lad (specifically a Belter) so I’m a bit biased. Since moving here at the end of January we’ve been finding our way around and trying hard not to live off Luca’s ice cream. I may have to give in and start wearing elasticated breeks though – a branch of Mellis’ cheesemongers has opened a few doors’ down from us. The forces are conspiring I tell you!

There’s a great greengrocer on our street although sadly it seems to shut at 5.30 prompt. I got off the bus after work the other night at 5.45 and tried frantically miming “All I want is a bulb of garlic” through the window but was still asked to go away. I’ve long said the fight against the relentless march of the supermarkets would be slightly easier if some High Street shops stayed open during that crucial heading home from work period, even just till 6.30.

I had to trek all the way to the other end of town to the Tesco Monster to buy some garlic. (It was worth it – Wife-features’ pasta with garlic, crème fraiche and veg is super tasty.)

There are two butchers near us – bizarrely one stocks baskets of chocolate biscuits at the front door and has pre-packed Dutch bacon in the window, and was unable to supply a chicken pie when WF popped in the other day. The other butcher by contrast seems to be staffed by a young cheery lad who can tell you where the meat comes from in Scotland. Their pies look fresh and buttery-pastry-tastic and their pork bangers hit the spot with Toddler. That’s the one we’ll be returning to.

The aforementioned cheese emporium (actually it’s a fairly small concession but stocks possibly the tangiest richest Stilton I’ve ever had) also doubles as a posh wine and beer shop. I now live with a minute’s walk of cases of Black Isle Red Kite and Blonde, which is an improvement on the situation in Nairn which as far as I know still has no off licence.

I’ve also found myself popping into Earthy in Portobello on a Friday on the cycle home from work in Edinburgh. They stock brilliant bread. Of course the main thing you notice when you try to buy organic or Fair Trade is it can be a bit more expensive and these days money is tight.

But when I can I try to choose the ethical option, especially if it’s something I can’t get locally such as coffee or bananas. This may explain why a recent motion tabled in the parliament stood out for me…

Our new local MSP (I will miss bumping into Fergus Ewing on the streets of Nairn even though I spot him buzzing around the corridors of power at Holyrood several times a week) is Colin Beattie, whose constituency is Musselburgh and Midlothian North. He regularly puts down motions in the parliament praising all sorts – from cheering on the local rugby club and charity walkers to congratulating Dalkeith and Monktonhall Brass Band on winning second place in the first section competition at the Scottish Brass Band Championship.

It sounds like he has his finger on the pulse or at least would like to give this impression. But then I spotted a motion from him congratulating Musselburgh on achieving Fair Trade status. He went on to list “stores in Musselburgh that offer fairly traded products”, wishing them “success in growing their businesses.” I’d never heard of them but having only lived in the town for a couple of months thought I’d look them up to see what I was missing.

Here’s what I found. The six shops he mentioned were: The Small World, Just World Shop, One World Shop, Holy Tea Club, Equal Exchange Trading and Earth Squared.

Four of them are in Edinburgh city centre, one’s in Portobello, one’s in Prestonpans and the other is in Haddington.

I’ve asked the Scottish Fairtrade Forum how Musselburgh got its status. I’d love to see a variety of ethical retailers in my new hometown but at the moment the only place I can think of that stocks Fairtrade is the Tesco Monster, which rather defeats the point! I wonder what Mr Beattie was thinking? (Have you seen the motions your MSP is tabling on your behalf? The Better Nation blog often have fun with them.)

On a positive note I’m delighted to learn Burgh folk have been bitten by the Transition Town bug. Now that’s something worth celebrating.

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