Fairtrade sign banned at Queensferry border over row

Fairtrade campaigners with councillor Kevin Lang and MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton
Fairtrade campaigners with councillor Kevin Lang and MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton
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A ROW over a request for a new sign proclaiming South Queensferry as a Fairtrade Royal Burgh has led to a nationwide government review of policy on road signs.

Campaigners want to recognise the town’s Fairtrade status – granted by the Fairtrade Foundation in 2008 – with an addition to the existing signs telling motorists they are entering South Queensferry.

Transport Scotland rules ban the move because it would not be regarded as a “traffic sign”.

But after the issue was raised in the Scottish Parliament, Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has ordered a review.

Lib Dem councillor Kevin Lang said: “Queensferry is rightly proud of its status as a Fairtrade Royal Burgh. After all, a lot of work goes into getting this kind of accreditation.

“This is why we were so keen to have new signs put in place at the entrances to the town, just like you see elsewhere. It would have helped highlight the importance of fair trade to the many people visiting Queensferry. It came as something of a shock when we discovered such signs are illegal.”

Cllr Lang now plans to raise the issue at the next council meeting to get agreement from councillors on writing to Transport Scotland and supporting a change of policy.

Fairtrade Town status was achieved through a range of Fairtrade products being available in local retail outlets, local workplaces and community organisations using Fairtrade products and a steering group which continues to win support for fair trade.

Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton asked in parliament about the road sign restrictions.

Mr Yousaf told him: “Local roads authorities have considerable latitude over the design and content of gateway signs, which are located at the entrance to settlements including references to matters of local interest and historical events. However, authorisation in accordance with the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions does not extend to the use of signage indicating Fairtrade, as these are not considered to be traffic signs.”

He added that because Fairtrade was a recognised global brand, the signs would be considered as advertisements.

But he added: “I have instructed Transport Scotland to carry out a review of traffic sign and general signage policy, which will include a review of the use of Fairtrade accreditation on signs.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton welcomed the announcement. He said: “I’m very grateful to the Transport Minister for agreeing to this review. I suspect it came as much of a surprise to him as it came to me that such signs are not allowed.

“I hope Transport Scotland will now quickly change its policy so Edinburgh and other local authorities can have the freedom to put up Fairtrade signs, not just in Queensferry but in other places which have worked hard to get official Fairtrade status.

“In the meantime, the volunteers in the local Fairtrade group in Queensferry deserve a lot of praise. It is because of them that we now have this Scotland-wide review.”