A push to have Fairtrade road signs erected at the entrances to Queensferry has led to a nation wide government review of signage policy.
Queensferry was named a Fairtrade Royal Burgh in 2008. The active Fairtrade Group in the town was keen to celebrate the 10 year anniversary by having new road signs to show the fairtrade status of the town.
The group enlisted the help of local councillor Kevin Lang to help. However, despite support from local Council transport officials, the signs cannot be erected because they are not officially allowed by Transport Scotland, the Scottish Government’s national transport agency.
The matter was then raised in the Scottish Parliament by local MSP, Alex Cole-Hamilton. In response, the Scottish Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf announced his decision to initiate a nation wide review of the policy.
Cllr 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 at the entrances to the town, just like you see elsewhere. It would really 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. It is certainly an odd policy for the Scottish Government to have given its support for fair trade and helping the poorest nations around the world.”
Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP 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 were not allowed.
“I hope Transport Scotland will now quickly change its policy so the City of Edinburgh and other local authorities can have the freedom to put up such signs, not just in Queensferry but in other places which have worked to get official Fair Trade status.
“In the meantime, the volunteers in the local fair trade group in Queensferry deserve a lot of praise. It is because of them that we now have this Scotland wide review.”
The full exchange between Alex Cole-Hamilton and Humza Yousaf is below;
Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government what restrictions there are on the ability of local authorities to erect signs that identify a location as having accredited fair trade status.
Humza Yousaf: Traffic signs and permitted variants that can be used on public roads are contained in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 (the TSRGD). This legislation ensures a continuity and consistency of signing throughout the country.
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 TSRGD does not extend to the use of signage indicating “Fairtrade”, as these are not considered to be traffic signs.
While the Fairtrade campaign is well recognised and the initiative is to be commended, Fairtrade is a recognised global brand, which is promoting a commercial interest. As such they are not considered suitable for inclusion in traffic signs and fall to be considered as advertisements. In addition, most towns, villages and other settlements in Scotland will meet the Fairtrade criteria so this is not considered to be a distinctive local message for the purposes of road signage, nor is it a relevant consideration when promoting safe and efficient traffic management.
The Council (as planning authority) could consider a planning application for ‘Fairtrade’ however these signs should not be incorporated in any traffic sign (such as a town gateway sign) which is controlled by the TSRGD.
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.