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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Thursday, January 12, 2023


Circular Fashion

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-06368, in the name of Stephanie Callaghan, on circular fashion: looping the thread. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament encourages the adoption of circular fashion methods that ensure clothing is produced in a more considered way that closes the loop on production, including responsible manufacturing, use, and the end-of-life stage, emphasising the value of utilising a garment right to the end; understands that, over the past decades, the production and consumption of clothing has increased exponentially around the world leading to a dramatic increase in the negative social and environmental consequences; notes that a report by Zero Waste Scotland, which assessed the carbon impact of Scotland’s household waste, showed that textiles account for nearly a third of emissions even though they only make up 4% of waste by weight; further notes that Scotland is home to what it understands is the UK’s leading circular fashion hub, Advanced Clothing Solutions (ACS), offering fashion brands and retailers a carbon neutral, rental and resale fulfilment service from a developing biodiversity area in Holytown, North Lanarkshire; welcomes the Scottish Government’s £2 million Circular Textiles Fund, as well as the £18 million Circular Economy Investment Fund, administered by Zero Waste Scotland, offering investment for SMEs based in Scotland and supporting work that will deliver circular economy growth; considers that there is need for transparency in the fashion supply chain; notes the calls for legislation that helps to achieve fair pay for textile and garment workers around the world, in light of reports that modern slavery runs deep within the industry, and further notes the growing calls to incentivise responsible and circular consumption through fiscal and regulatory levers that reward fashion companies that design products with lower environmental impacts and penalise those that do not.


Stephanie Callaghan (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

It is a privilege to lead tonight’s debate on circular fashion, and I thank Tony, Michael and Hayley from Advanced Clothing Solutions, who are in the public gallery, for inspiring it. I am also grateful to members on all sides of the chamber for supporting my motion and for staying late on this dark winter night instead of rushing home to get their slippers on.

Circular fashion is expanding rapidly, offering Scotland opportunities to further strengthen our environmental and social justice credentials and sitting neatly with our global leadership on net zero and climate justice. However, I start with the problem: we are addicted to fashion. Across the United Kingdom, we buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe, and consumers now buy 60 per cent more garments than they did 15 years ago.

Fashion makes up 10 per cent of humanity’s carbon emissions, which is more than aviation and shipping combined. In the UK, a massive 80 per cent of textiles end up in landfill, with the average person throwing away 3.1 kilos of textiles each year; that is enough to fill a small suitcase.

The use of chemicals in clothes production raises serious health concerns for workers and consumers, and 35 per cent of microplastics in the world’s oceans come from synthetic textiles. At the same time, textile workers, who are primarily women in developing countries, are often paid derisory wages and forced to work long hours in appalling conditions in a way that shows complete disregard for human rights.

Closer to home, the uncomfortable truths that have been uncovered in the fashion industry in Leicester were right on our doorstep just a short time ago. The fact is that 98 per cent of fashion brands do not pay their workers a liveable wage, and yet, as a society, we still blindly consume the products of that labour. Things cannot go on as they are. We need to completely rethink our relationship with fashion and abandon the current take, make, waste model of production and consumption that relies on the exploitation of people and planet.

Circular fashion offers an alternative to that broken system, whereby our clothing and personal belongings come from a more considered model in which the production of an item and the end of its life are equally important. Circularity begins with responsible manufacturing, whereby clothing is built to last and can be maintained and reused right through to the end of its life, when it is then recycled.

Circular fashion is not new: in Scotland, we have been renting and reusing clothing for as long as I can remember. Hiring kilts and wedding attire is common, and those items are made with durability and reuse in mind. Personally, I have never quite managed to move on from the charity shopping of my student days—there is something exciting about those pre-loved vintage bargains that I just cannot resist. However, if we want to move circular fashion from niche to normal, we need to establish infrastructures that help brands to shift away from the destructive linear model of production that currently exists and bring consumers into the loop.

ACS Clothing, which I mentioned earlier, is based in Holytown, in my constituency. It is Europe’s largest circular and sustainable fashion fulfilment hub, which is something to be really proud of. Its online platform allows brands to dip their toe in circular fashion without huge outlays, and ACS back-end logistics take care of garment cleaning, rental, repair and resale in a socially just and carbon-neutral operation. ACS Clothing has received one of the highest B Corporation scores in the world, which demonstrates that circularity goes hand in hand with environmental and social performance.

In partnership with the University of the West of Scotland, the company has developed industry-leading oxygen compression technology that sanitises clothing, making it more clean and pristine than clothing from any shop shelf that can be found on the high street. Each manufacturing step, from developing environmentally innovative production processes to employing sustainable cleaning practices, carefully considers our planet. Amazingly, the technology can even clean personal protective equipment, making the unthinkable thinkable.

At ACS, respecting people goes hand in hand with respecting our planet. The company has been paying a real living wage for years, and it delivers modern and graduate apprenticeships and offers a range of placements in supportive employment opportunities, with wraparound care and a Scottish vocational qualifications centre on site.

The company’s diverse range of workers includes people with disabilities, refugees and those on placements through the Scottish Prison Service. Its business benefits people, and people benefit its business, rewarding it with loyalty, commitment and hard work.

Today, I am wearing a dress from Hirestreet—I am breathing in a bit—which is one of the many retailers that ACS Clothing enables in the rental market. It looks and feels new, and it arrived on my doorstep, so the process could not be easier. Reshaping the fashion industry and creating new possibilities is so important, but many fast-fashion retailers continue to ramp up production and employ greenwashing strategies to hide their supply chains from consumers. That will not change until we incentivise and regulate fashion brands and bring them with us on the journey to circularity. Until then, sustainable brands are mopping with the tap on. It is high time that we levelled the playing field to help sustainable fashion to compete against fast fashion, for the sake of our people and our planet.

For example, we already do not pay VAT on children’s clothes, because those are clearly not items to own for life, but what if we thought differently about all our clothing? From a policy perspective, the UK could follow Sweden’s lead, where VAT has been slashed to 0 per cent on repaired and reused items, offsetting the costs of transitioning to circular economy models and encouraging more businesses to enter the market.

Alongside incentives, we need tighter regulations and more transparency, including on labelling requirements for materials that are used, the environmental impact of production and the labour practices that are employed, in order to help consumers to make informed and ethical choices. We are falling behind the rest of the world by missing out on the new set of technical regulations that has recently been introduced in the European Union. That includes extended producer responsibility legislation, which means that the polluter takes responsibility for the products that they put on the market.

In the UK, producer responsibility schemes already apply to electrical goods, batteries, vehicles and packaging. In fashion, we could require brands and retailers to collect goods at the end of their life or outsource that process to someone else. That concept is exciting not only in terms of waste reduction, but because it creates a whole new manufacturing industry, which is currently still in its infancy. That in turn creates a massive opportunity for the Scottish economy. The demand for end-of-life recycling centres where items are broken back down into raw materials and brought back into the circular economy will only increase as we move away from the questionable practice of exporting and recycling to other continents.

However, although regulations can help to fund the necessary systems and infrastructure for collection and recirculation, more actions will be needed to avoid products being discarded in the first place. We should invest in education to bolster the connection between brands, communities and supply chains, and understand that we can, all together, meet the needs of local people and our environment.

Fashion is inherently about community and what we have in common, which is why we embrace the latest trends. Circular fashion harnesses that commonality: it champions the idea of sharing and reuse over ownership, and people and planet over profit. Circular fashion is our future—it has to be.


Maurice Golden (North East Scotland) (Con)

It is actually my birthday today, and there is no better way of spending it than speaking about circular fashion with my friends on all sides of the chamber.

I congratulate Stephanie Callaghan on bringing the debate to the chamber. I also give my apologies, as I need to leave at 6.15 pm to catch a train, although we may be finished by then anyway.

There is a compelling case for making clothes more sustainable. It means longer-lasting products, which is good for consumers; new opportunities for business, which is good for the economy; and a need for fewer resources, which is good for the environment. I am therefore pleased that the motion recognises ACS Clothing in North Lanarkshire, because the company is a world-class example of a circular economy for clothes.

Last year, I visited the company to see for myself its operation and its incredible feat of logistics—renting, repairing and reusing thousands of garments that would otherwise cost individuals hundreds of pounds, and thereby reducing waste, generating jobs and creating value for consumers.

Clothing reuse and repair businesses of all sorts can be encouraged through the tax system by measures such as scrapping VAT on sustainable clothing. I wrote to the chancellor last year—I think that that was four chancellors ago—urging him to do just that. I urge the Scottish Government to act, too, by exempting sustainable clothing businesses from non-domestic rates.

When we buy new clothing, we should encourage the use of natural fibres, such as wool, whenever possible. That is great for farmers, consumers and the environment, so why is the Scottish Government not doing more to back that amazing Scottish natural resource? For starters, we could improve the data, as we do not know how much wool is used in textile manufacturing. We need a strategy for wool production to help to create more circular fashion. Although we all welcome the circular textiles fund, it is a relatively small budget, looks pretty stretched and comes seven years after the Scottish Government cancelled the textiles programme for Zero Waste Scotland.

We need far more than just a small fund; we need interventions throughout the textiles life cycle. For example, in the design phase, we need to encourage far more design for disassembly. We need zero-waste pattern formulation, design for durability and cradle-to-cradle phasing. In the manufacturing stage, we need to use single-fibre textiles as far as possible, use dry dyeing and printing to minimise our environmental impact, use disassembly technologies and use biodegradable materials whenever possible. In the retail and service phase, we need, like ACS, to employ hiring and leasing, incentivised return, collaborative consumption and reduced packaging. For remanufacture, we need fibre reprocessing, upcycling, refashioning and closed-loop recycling where the other approaches are not possible.

Consumers have an important role to play. My message to the public is a quote from the late Dame Vivienne Westwood, who famously encouraged people to

“Buy less, choose well, make it last”.


Fiona Hyslop (Linlithgow) (SNP)

I thank Stephanie Callaghan for bringing this important members’ business debate to the chamber and extend my best wishes to Maurice Golden.

As I am sure we all agree, the need to tackle climate change is more urgent than ever. The emissions produced by textile waste in Scotland are alarming. However, the opportunities to grow the circular fashion market in Scotland are vast.

A report published by Zero Waste Scotland last year showed that, although textiles represented only 4 per cent of waste in Scotland, by weight, they account for 32 per cent of Scotland’s carbon impact. The Scottish Government’s target to meet net zero by 2045 is ambitious but achievable, and targeting the carbon waste generated from textiles will be key to reaching that goal.

Not only does fast fashion produce a high level of carbon emissions due to wasted textiles, but the industry’s water consumption is high and the use of chemicals in production can be damaging to the environment and the health of workers. Therefore, keeping garments in the loop for longer will help the fashion industry in Scotland to reduce its current emissions and bring Scotland closer to net zero.

Changing our focus from consuming to reusing will also provide new and exciting opportunities for shoppers and businesses. In Scotland, we already have some excellent examples of businesses that are working to introduce circularity to the fashion industry. For example, ReJean, which is based in Glasgow, repurposes denim that would otherwise be sent to landfill. Totty Rocks, which is based in Edinburgh, uses only material and designs sourced in Scotland to reduce its carbon footprint.

With the Scottish Government’s £2 million backing of the circular textiles fund, we can expect to see more innovative solutions to the issues. The fund, which is administered by Zero Waste Scotland, aims to develop circular supply chains in Scotland and help businesses to achieve net zero. Although that support from the Scottish Government is welcome, is it clear that we all need to do more to reduce waste in the textiles and fashion industry.

The opportunities for consumers to shop with small sustainable fashion brands are growing, but there are many other ways for consumers to shop sustainably and support their local economies. Pre-loved clothing can often offer better-quality, longer-lasting items for a lower price than many fast fashion brands, which is particularly important as we continue to deal with the rising cost of living.

In my constituency, the West Lothian Foodbank charity shop in Whitburn and the recently opened Armadale store allow consumers to purchase pre-loved items. The Armadale store provides occasion wear for typically expensive events such as weddings and proms, which are typically costly pieces. The service will allow people a more affordable way to celebrate family and community events in style during the cost of living crisis. The store is opening a bridal room for that purpose in February, where customers will be able to try items before buying.

West Lothian Foodbank charity shop is a great example. It allows customers to shop sustainably while supporting their community, because sales from the shop help to fund the food bank. I look forward to visiting its new premises soon.

Consumers can utilise online services that allow the rental of clothing, such as the Moss box monthly rental service from Moss Bros—Presiding Officer, I do not know whether you are old enough to remember when Moss Bros originated as a rental outlet—and shop with second-hand retailers online with apps such as Vinted. By making the choice to rent, recycle and rewear, we can all play our part in reducing the emissions that are generated by wasted textiles.

My challenge, as we go into the new year, is not only to continue to support circular fashion in Scotland as we are doing in this debate, but for Scotland to be more conscious and make 2023 the year of recycling, reusing, refashioning and restoring our clothes.

Thank you, Ms Hyslop. I should probably declare an interest in relation to Moss Bros back in the day.


Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

For all the many issues that MSPs and political parties disagree on, it is safe to say that there is a common desire to create a sustainable economy and protect our planet and its resources.

It is certainly for that reason that we have seen such strong cross-party support for delivery on those fronts, which offer many positive outcomes for consumers, designers, producers, workers and, crucially, our natural environment.

In discussing our collective drive towards reducing our carbon footprint, we regularly debate the glaringly obvious: how we produce power, heat our homes and travel. Often, these discussions are about what someone else will do to fix the problem, from building cleaner power stations to designing better electric cars. A recognition that that only takes us so far is often missing from the conversation. To be successful in meeting our climate goals, it is up to every one of us to change our personal behaviour, including how we consume and how we dispose and to consider the positive choices that we can make to deliver an impact.

The choices that we make about the clothes that we wear and how we move away from a wasteful and damaging take, make and dispose model of producing fashion is one area where there are solutions at hand and a growing public appetite to be more responsible and mindful about what and when we buy.

Indeed, when fashion platform Unfolded surveyed consumers asking what the most important factors were when buying clothing, the top answer was sustainable fabrics, which 86 per cent agreed was important. The same survey found that 61 per cent planned to upcycle and reuse their clothes more often.

Rethinking the fashion industry, and our fashion choices, is not about tinkering around the edges of the climate emergency. Modern textile production relies heavily on fossil fuels, and the United Nations environment programme estimates that fashion accounts for up to 10 per cent of global carbon dioxide output, which is more than international flights and shipping combined. Furthermore, with polyester replacing cotton as the major component in textile production, fashion now accounts for a fifth of the 300 million tonnes of plastic produced globally each year.

The problem is growing, with the World Economic Forum suggesting that annual garment production has doubled since the turn of the millennium. Polyester production alone will exceed 92 million tonnes in the next decade, which is an increase of 47 per cent. That is totally unsustainable. We have seen huge dumping of excess clothing in Africa and elsewhere.

It is alarming that a mere fraction of what we wear is recycled, with 87 per cent of total clothing fibre ultimately incinerated or sent to landfill at home and abroad. That means wasted energy in production, emissions from disposal and—thanks to polyester’s dominance—ever more microplastics entering our seas and water courses.

Discussing the issue in global terms can often make the problem seem intangible or insurmountable, given the scale of the challenge. Credit is therefore due to Zero Waste Scotland, whose groundbreaking Scottish carbon metric methodology measures the whole-life carbon impacts of Scotland’s waste, from resource extraction and manufacturing emissions right through to waste management emissions, regardless of where in the world those impacts occur. As Fiona Hyslop pointed out, it is shocking that Zero Waste Scotland’s 2020 report showed that textiles, which made up just 4 per cent of Scotland’s waste by weight, accounted for a startling 32 per cent of our carbon impact. That is worth repeating.

However, it does not have to be this way. New technologies and new processes coupled with political support and behaviour change can help us reduce our demand for new textiles. Advanced Clothing Solutions—which I thank for providing my suit for this debate—is an excellent case in point. Its pioneering work with the University of the West of Scotland uses environmentally friendly ozone gas to sanitise garments, extending the life of used or damaged garments for some of the country’s biggest brands. When we consider that 40 per cent of clothing purchased online is returned and that more than half of those returns are destroyed, it is clear that that service can make, and is making, a positive difference.

In learning about that new technology, I was encouraged to see that progress is under way to adapt it to the sanitisation and reuse of personal protective equipment garments, £4 billion-worth of which were burned by the UK Government last year. The importance of that will not be lost on any of us.

Such initiatives also create huge economic opportunities, allowing universities to develop commercial technology, generate new business and create green jobs in Scotland. With the support of Skills Development Scotland, ACS brought on its largest intake of 30 apprentices last summer, including five people with disabilities and five refugees, to help drive forward its net zero ambitions.

I again thank Stephanie Callaghan for securing the debate and ACS for supporting it. As a Parliament, we must continue encouraging people to evolve their habits and incentivising the responsible production, manufacture and reuse of products, while deterring and penalising the wasteful and unfair practises that are the very worst of the fashion industry. Only then we can deliver a material change to emissions and environmental sustainability.

Thank you, Mr Gibson. You have never looked more dapper.


Monica Lennon (Central Scotland) (Lab)

I join colleagues in congratulating Stephanie Callaghan on securing this debate and bringing the Parliament together. We can hear from the speeches that members are passionate about the topic, which is always very encouraging.

I wish Maurice Golden many happy returns. I hope that he has cake and candles waiting at home, and I am sure he will wish for a circular economy. The minister is here to take note of that.

Like Stephanie Callaghan, I have had the pleasure and privilege of visiting ACS at its North Lanarkshire headquarters, which is in my region. I encourage colleagues from Central Scotland and elsewhere to reach out. I am sure that the team that is in the gallery, which is very welcome, would be glad to welcome visitors to its site. I was able to have an extensive tour of the site and to chat to apprentices. We are here to talk about the environmental benefits of circular fashion, but it is clear that there are benefits from fair work and the social change that we want to see. It is all about a fairer Scotland and the fairer world that we want to live in.

Before I forget to say so—it is always good to take opportunities in members’ business debates—because there is such interest in the topic and the wider themes, I will be hosting an event in Parliament for Fashion Revolution on 27 April. Everyone is welcome to come to that.

Back in 2021, when the 26th United Nations climate change conference of the parties—COP26—took place in Glasgow, I had the privilege of meeting Carry Somers, who is the co-founder of Fashion Revolution. We met to discuss a future world in which clothes enrich every aspect of our lives and the environment.

Fashion should be fun, but our addiction to fast fashion can be criminally damaging. I ask colleagues to reflect on the tragic disaster that happened almost 10 years ago at the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh. More than a thousand people lost their lives and thousands more were injured. When we talk about clothing and textiles and the aspiration for net zero apparel, we must think about the people behind the labels and the garments. I hope that, in Scotland, we will not just talk the talk but we will walk the walk.

It is really encouraging to hear about the values that ACS promotes both locally and beyond. That takes investment. Any company has to look at risk and at what is happening with legislation. Maurice Golden is right: we need to look at what more the Scottish Parliament can do working with the Government, and at where there should be co-operation between the Scottish Government and the UK Government.

The motion is right to recognise

“the growing calls to incentivise responsible and circular consumption through fiscal and regulatory levers”.

We need to talk about the carrot and the stick. Some of that will not be popular, but we need system change. Yes, individuals, communities and pioneering businesses are doing responsible things, but we are getting pockets of good practice when we need structural and systemic change. It is important that those discussions involve our trade union colleagues, workers and those in the third sector who are doing innovative work.

Time is short, as it always is in members’ business debates, and I have probably missed out all the people whom I wanted to mention. However, the debate has shown that there is a lot of common ground. Maurice Golden chairs the circular economy cross-party group, and we are looking forward to a circular economy bill. We have big opportunities in the Parliament. I hope that we can seize them and have a fashion revolution in Scotland.


Ruth Maguire (Cunninghame South) (SNP)

I join colleagues in congratulating Stephanie Callaghan on securing this debate and on highlighting and promoting the adoption of circular fashion methods. I am not normally a fan of commenting on the appearance of politicians, but she and Kenneth Gibson both look magnificent in their hired outfits.

Although upcycling has become increasingly trendy, circular fashion is nothing new. Historically, clothes shopping for the average person was costly. Customers bought fabric, trimmings, linings and threads to be made up by a tailor or dressmaker, and the finished textiles involved so much intensive hand work that goods were expensive and items were made to last—and last they did. Clothes were repeatedly mended or restyled and, eventually, cut short for children to wear. Even when mass production of clothing was refined in the UK during the second world war, strict restrictions under the utility scheme ensured that manufacturers produced goods of a high standard that were able to be repurposed.

Now, we have fast fashion. Popular high street brands offer cheaper and speedier manufacturing and shipping methods, which facilitate increasing consumer appetite for up-to-the-minute styles and the ability to indulge the instant gratification of desires while promoting a throwaway culture and maximising their profits.

Individual purchasing is variable, which makes it important to understand inequality and the financial and social pressures, particularly on low earners and low-income families. Hand-made leather shoes that will last a lifetime with some care and repair might be cheap over the long run, but an initial outlay of hundreds of pounds is not possible for everyone. There are other ways and, today, it is more important than ever that we highlight the importance of dumping the linear take-make-waste model.

I applaud organisations that specialise in the rental and renewal of clothing, such as Advanced Clothing Solutions. I also applaud second-hand online and high street charity shops in which people can buy good-quality, affordable clothing, and community-led initiatives to reuse items such as school uniforms. Those examples are becoming more commonplace, and they illustrate successful initiatives that result in cultural change, reduce waste, are accessible for many, and can tackle poverty in a stigma-free way.

Those organisations value not just what they do or the garments that they provide but the people who work for them. Fair work should be at the centre of a move toward sustainable fashion. Fair wages and good conditions for the fabric and garment workers who produce our apparel are important.

Findings from the 2021 “Fashion Transparency Index” show that most major brands still withhold vital data on human rights issues, including workers’ pay and conditions, purchasing practices, and racial and gender inequality. Although that might conjure up images of sweatshops in poorer countries, with workers toiling in dangerous conditions for minimal pay, Labour Behind the Label published evidence in June 2020 that exposed forced labour in UK garment factories, with some workers enduring intimidation and earning as little as £3 an hour.

With the current cost of living crisis, we need to ensure that our citizens are aware of options that are available to them to make cheaper, sustainable choices and move away from fast fashion. In November 2022, the Centre for Social Justice reported that, in the current financial crisis, the poorest in our society face a poverty premium in seven key areas, costing families around an extra £480 per year. It is disgraceful that lower-income households are incurring extra costs when purchasing the same essential goods and services that households that are better off are.

Our planet and people are no longer capable of maintaining a throwaway culture. It is necessary that we move at pace towards a sustainable future. People should know that a move to circular fashion is no longer just the privilege of the rich.

I call Graham Simpson, who is joining us online.


Graham Simpson (Central Scotland) (Con)

I apologise for not being in the chamber. I like to speak in the chamber, but I have a constituency event that I need to get to. That is my excuse. I am certainly not putting my slippers on, which Stephanie Callaghan talked about members doing. I congratulate Stephanie on securing the debate.

The idea of offering rental clothes to MSPs has certainly paid off. It certainly seems to have cured Kenny Gibson’s fashion woes. My message to him is that he should continue to rent.

I, too, have visited ACS’s plant in my region, and it was an eye-opener for me. We have a rental sector, which should be expanded. Some of the figures that ACS gave me were startling. The fashion industry produces 10 per cent of global carbon emissions, and that could rise to 26 per cent by 2050. In addition, globally, 20 per cent of waste water comes from the fashion industry, and 50 billion plastic bottles’-worth of microfibres are released annually by the industry. As we have heard, 98 per cent of brands do not pay their workers a liveable wage.

Other MSPs have rightly said that we live in an age of fast, throwaway fashion. I should say that, in the spirit of the debate, I am wearing a jacket that I bought second hand in the 1980s—it probably shows, actually. My tie was also bought at the same time. They were made to last, and they have lasted. I can still wear them, and I think that they look okay. I think that I can see Maurice Golden chortling, as well he might.

That is what we should be doing. We should not be chucking away clothes that are perfectly usable, which happens too often. Thankfully, younger people are latching on to the message that we should not have such a throwaway society. Fiona Hyslop mentioned that there are apps out there that enable people to buy and sell clothes that have been worn before. We really need to change the market. ACS has come up with some solutions, such as implementing regulations on the use of synthetic materials, establishing minimum standards for sustainable production, implementing product labelling requirements and providing incentives for sustainable fashion.

One of my personal bugbears is to do not with clothes but with footwear. A number of shoes and trainers are built in such a way that they are very hard to repair. I like to get stuff repaired rather than throw it away. The way in which shoes and trainers are now manufactured means that it is extremely difficult to do that. We need to take a look at that. The issue is not just about clothes; it is also about footwear.

Thank you, Mr Simpson. I notice that you waited until you were joining us remotely before bravely having a go at Mr Gibson’s fashion sense.


Carol Mochan (South Scotland) (Lab)

Along with other members, I thank Stephanie Callaghan for securing this evening’s members’ business debate on circular fashion, which I very much wanted to take part in, as it is a subject that I have had an interest in for many years. In the interests of Maurice Golden’s birthday wishes, I have only a few words to say, so I should not keep everyone.

It was interesting when I spoke to Friends of the Earth this afternoon to hear about how far we have to go in Scotland on the circular economy. I had a very interesting discussion with it about how much we have to do. I hope that all members are very committed to ensuring that we can get this right.

When I was researching for this debate, I read something that really stood out for me:

“The vast majority of consumer fashion is stuck in a linear model with most used clothes perceived as having no value and being disposed of at an ever-increasing frequency ... In recent times modern culture has driven continued increases in oversupply and planned”


“Fast fashion is a linear business model that focuses on a rapid supply chain, working to design, produce and distribute new items of clothing at an accelerated rate.”

Many members have mentioned that. The point that I want to make is that

“This model works due to the low cost of labour”.

Many members have stated that changing fashion trends, purchasing power and consumer demand have an effect on those who work in the industry.

I want to highlight why I have an interest in this debate. I have an interest in low-cost labour, particularly child labour, around the globe. We have to be honest and not kid ourselves. We should not shield consumers and our constituents from the truth.

My interest in the issue stems from a visit that I made to India 30 years ago. Part of a tour on that visit took me to a factory in which tiny children were threading beads for fashion. I was only in my 20s. As I stand here, I can feel what I felt at that moment. A video was produced 30 years later, in 2021, when the 26th United Nations climate change conference of the parties—COP26—was in Scotland. There are still tiny children across India threading beads, and that is absolutely unacceptable. The western world has huge responsibility for that.

It was good to bring this debate to the Parliament, and it is good to discuss the issue, but we need to be honest about where we are in the world on it. Unless we can change consumer attitudes towards clothes, purchasing and the things that we have discussed—valuing things and having things made to last—it will be really difficult to shift the industry, which is driven by purchasing, and change the supply chain for the circular economy. We see great examples—it is lovely to see those in the gallery. That can be done, but we need to work hard to make that happen. The cost is the human cost of the fashion industry, and we have to take that seriously.

The motion asks the Parliament to encourage

“the adoption of circular fashion methods”.

I hope that, one day, in Scotland and across the world, the legislation will be clear that we have no option but to manufacture, purchase and recycle in a responsible manner. I hope that that is legislated for. We can save the planet. Let us save our fellow workers and small children across the world and ensure that we change fashion for the better.

I invite Lorna Slater to respond to the debate. Bearing in mind Mr Golden’s birthday plans, minister, you have around seven minutes.


The Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity (Lorna Slater)

I would not want to keep Maurice Golden from his birthday plans. Many happy returns to him.

I cannot say how excited I am to be speaking in this debate. I am completely passionate about the topic. I am addicted to fashion, but that does not mean that I am addicted to consumption. In my left desk drawer you will find what I call my circular economy toolkit, which is a sewing kit for repairing and fixing buttons on garments and so on.

I thank Stephanie Callaghan for bringing the debate to the Parliament and all members who have spoken in it. The topic is an important one that affects all of us. We all wear clothing. Food, shelter and clothing are the fundamental needs of every human being, and the carbon footprint of our overconsumption of fashion affects all life on earth. I therefore agree with everything that Stephanie Callaghan said in her speech. I share her love of charity shops, although I do struggle to get these shoulders into vintage clothes.

Like Stephanie, I am showing my heart in my outfit today. I am a sewing addict and make many of my own clothes, including the skirt that I am wearing. It used to be a dress when I was a more svelte person, but now it will only cover the bottom half, so it is a skirt. During my Christmas holidays, I spent most of my time sewing, and I agree with many people who say that second hand is not second best. We need to make clothing to last, keep it for longer and learn to repair it. I am passionate about that, and I do not think that being fashion conscious needs to mean that we have to overconsume.

This is also a very timely discussion. We are not just in a climate crisis and we are not just discussing waste and pollution. We are also in a cost crisis, and some members have highlighted that tonight. The circular economy holds within it the ability to tackle all those issues, particularly sharing, reuse, alteration and repair, which have the potential to reduce costs for consumers.

Every material that is wasted costs our planet, and it is clear that textiles have a disproportionate environmental impact. They account for almost one third of the carbon impact of Scotland’s household waste. Making fashion more circular requires changes at all parts of the supply chain, including design, production, consumption and recycling. I was very interested in what several members said about design and I made notes on design for disassembly and durability, and Graham Simpson mentioned design for repair. I agree with all those principles. The circular economy is not just about scooping up waste and dealing with it differently but about stopping that waste in the first place.

Our circular textiles fund will help to improve the circularity of textiles in Scotland by backing innovative ideas to tackle the environmental impacts that we know textiles have. Zero Waste Scotland is actively working on the fund and is working with and supporting circular businesses to develop new ideas.

I welcome the fund, but will the minister consider urging Zero Waste Scotland to develop a textiles strategy, so that we can attempt to make some of the interventions that the minister is talking about?

Lorna Slater

I listened carefully to Maurice Golden’s speech and was particularly interested in his thoughts on a textiles strategy and wool production. I spoke to officials about that yesterday, and I will meet some industry stakeholders in the wool and textiles industries in the near future, including the industry group leader for textile manufacturing in Scotland. I am so keen on that. I will be happy to follow up on those matters and see what we can do.

We will introduce a circular economy bill during the current parliamentary session, and it will establish the legislative framework to support Scotland’s transition to zero waste and a circular economy.

Our waste route map will set out how we intend to deliver our system-wide comprehensive vision for Scotland’s circular economy. We have established a £70 million recycling improvement fund, which marks one of the biggest investments in recycling in Scotland in a generation.

Householders have a big role to play in supporting the shift, so we have proposed a process of co-design with local government and households to set new standards for high-quality, modern household recycling and reuse services across Scotland that will build on our commitment to consult on requirements to collect textiles separately by 2025.

Like many members, I have also visited Advanced Clothing Solutions, which gave me jars of its locally grown honey from its biodiversity initiative, which I loved. I saw for myself the great work that is being done there on sustainable fashion. I have also visited the Kalopsia collective, which is run by women and specifically includes pattern design for the reduction of waste and the use of those cut off-pieces of waste material—what we call “cabbage” when we are sewing—to make other products to prolong the textile’s life cycle, slow down unnecessary production and reduce waste.

One of the other businesses that I have visited is Remake Scotland, in Crieff, which has a reuse hub and a fantastic textiles room where it sells second-hand fabrics for £2 a kilo. I confess that I came away with quite a large bag that I then had to smuggle into the house past my husband, who feels like I already have enough fabric, but my mother says, “She who dies with the most wins,” so I am working on that principle.

Before I close, I want to highlight some of the key themes that I have heard from members today. Many members highlighted the work of ACS and the innovative work on cleaning PPE. What has really been highlighted there are the opportunities in circularity and circular business models for business opportunities and prosperity through job creation.

On the flip side of that, many colleagues highlighted the difficulty with workers’ conditions around the world and the tragedy that happened in Bangladesh as a result of such conditions.

Many members spoke about the climate challenges, with carbon, plastic and waste water being by-products of the fashion industry that we need to reduce. All of this is about culture change and helping consumers to move to a place in which second hand, upcycling, refashioning and repair are all second nature to us all. That will also help us with the cost of living crisis.

Monica Lennon

I feel a bit cheeky, because I saw Graham Simpson on the screen also trying to get in.

On the point about culture change, we have heard that young people are, in many ways, leading the way on that. There is a role there for education, as Stephanie Callaghan mentioned. I was looking back at social media and tweets ahead of the debate, and I saw newspaper headlines about a member of the royal family wearing a recycled dress, but it was actually just a dress that she had worn more than once. There is a lot of misogyny and sexism around when we talk about fashion, particularly when we talk about women who are in the public eye. What more could the Government do with education and public information to challenge some of the more negative stereotyping that is out there?

I thank the member for her intervention. I am aware that I am short of time—

I can give you some additional time.

Lorna Slater

The member highlights issues that drive me crazy, especially those headlines. I was just coming on to say that some members suggested some tools that might be used to improve the situation, and I hope that normalising and mainstreaming the repair, reuse and wearing of second-hand clothing will help with that. Several colleagues pointed out that we are falling behind the European Union on labelling. There was a call for extended producer responsibility for fashion, and suggestions were made about VAT changes and other changes to tax on clothes. All of that forms part of the toolkit that we can all look at together to shift in the right direction.

Finally, Graham Simpson and Ruth Maguire alluded to something that is often referred to as the Vimes boots theory of poverty, which is about how challenging it can be for people to buy good-quality clothing when they have cash challenges, and how, as a culture, we need to move to people having access to good-quality, durable clothing and the knowledge of how to repair it.

Thank you.

Meeting closed at 18:02.