Dougie Harrison volunteers at fair trade centre Gavin’s Mill

AS a socialist I have always supported fair trade, which ensures that at least some producers in developing countries get a fair price for their work. I was an occasional customer of Balmore Coach House, the UK’s longest-running charity fair trade shop, just north of Glasgow, for many years.

In January 2017, I learned of plans to move the Balmore Coach House business into Gavin’s Mill, the ancient watermill which gave nearby Milngavie its name. I volunteered, and the new business opened just over two years ago. It’s been successful, to the extent that we now hope to purchase the building, and we’ve launched an appeal to finance this.

Once our trust owns the building, we’ll be able to develop it into one of Scotland’s biggest fair trade businesses, and preserve and develop an important piece of local industrial and architectural history. So it’s a project into which I can truly throw myself. I’m an old socialist who cares about Scotland’s history as well as our future, and wants to help producers in poorer counties open new and ethical markets for their labour. The two come together perfectly in Gavin’s Mill ... and give me something useful to do with my time.

Our principle aim is to expand markets in Scotland for fair-traded goods from all over Latin America, Africa, and Asia. This allows farmers and craft workers to improve their communities. Part of the Mill’s work is to provide a platform for visiting producers to explain precisely how fair trade is helping their communities to develop. This deepens understanding in the Scottish fair trade movement, of the process of positive change it enables. And that deepening understanding increases market pressures on conventional retail outlets, to stock fair trade goods. So far the Co-op has led this field.

The goods we sell include delightful and sometimes unusual foodstuffs, and a multitude of craft goods which are almost impossible to find anywhere else. Our retail area is colourful, and a delight to shop in.

We are also turning the building into a community resource – don’t assume just because Milngavie is a leafy place, that it’s over-provided with community facilities! And with skills and resources raised locally, we hope to return the water-wheel to doing something useful again... producing sustainable electricity for the Mill and maybe wider. So it’s a green project too.

And this old man is learning new skills. I’ve done lots of things in my life, but had never worked in a shop or a cafe. I certainly have now!

“Just a wee community project?” Aye, mibbe. But mony a mickle maks a muckle.

And we always need volunteers: