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Is the Food Bill still on the Government’s menu?

The Scottish Food Coalition, of which Nourish is a member, is disappointed that the Scottish Government’s ambition for what it means to be a Good Food Nation seems to have diminished.

Today’s Programme for Government has scaled back on a firm commitment to legislation, opting instead for a “Good Food Nation programme” which will consider “what legislative measures might be required to underpin our ambition”. A Good Food Nation Bill is not currently scheduled to be introduced this year.

A Bill is needed to tackle Scotland’s connected food challenges. With two-thirds of us overweight or obese, one in ten UK children growing up in households unable to afford enough food and the huge environmental impact of food production and food waste, warm words are not enough.

Professor Mary Brennan, Chair of the Scottish Food Coalition, said:

“It’s disappointing that despite widespread support in Parliament and in the country, ambitions for the bill have been scaled back. There’s a world-wide recognition among business, civil society, governments and international bodies that we need to tackle food system challenges and Scotland could be leading the way.”

Pete Ritchie, director of Nourish Scotland called for renewed commitments to a Good Food Nation Bill: “There’s cross-party support for an ambitious Bill that would set a new direction of travel for food in Scotland. The measure of a world-class food system is not how much food and drink we can export but how well we can nourish all our citizens sustainably while providing good jobs for all who work in food. Scotland has all the ingredients to deliver this, and the public are behind it. We just need the political will.”

Ruth Mendel, Policy Officer from Citizens Advice Scotland, said:

“Evidence from Citizens Advice Bureaux across Scotland suggests that many Scots find it difficult to afford food. When we surveyed people earlier this year, 49% of respondents told us they had gone into debt to pay for food within the last year, and 23% had sometimes had to go without food entirely. This is a big issue that will be a key focus for the CAB network in the coming months.”

Dave Watson, UNISON Scotland head of policy and public affairs, said: “This is a real setback. We want to see a just transition to a fair, healthy and sustainable food system. A cross cutting Bill is widely seen as the way to support that.”

The Scottish Food Coalition is calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that the Good Food Nation Bill is central to its consultation this autumn.

 

Background

The SNP 2016 manifesto says:

We will bring forward a Good Food Nation Bill to draw together all aspects of the Scottish Government’s work on food and drink – including food standards, public procurement and food waste.

The 2016 and 2017 Programmes for Government both included commitments to consulting on the Bill.

In November 2016, Angela Constance said:

We want to create a sustainable solution to tackling food poverty across Scotland, and therefore I am committed to exploring a range of options, including looking into potentially enshrining the right to food into Scots law.

As recently as 25 January 2018, Fergus Ewing said:

The Scottish Food Commission recently submitted its recommendations for the proposed good food nation bill, and they are currently being considered across the Scottish Government with a view to a consultation being held this year. The consultation will inform the content of a good food nation bill that will be introduced during this parliamentary session.

There is cross-party support for the Good Food Nation Bill and the leaders of all four parties (Conservatives, Labour, LibDems and Greens) wrote to the Scottish Government asking them to keep the Bill.

The Scottish Food Coalition is broad-based alliance of civil society organisations working on issues of health, environment, workers’ rights, animal welfare, social justice and food poverty.

The Coalition’s five core asks for the Good Food Nation bill are:

  • Incorporating the Right to Food under the UN Charter into Scots Law
  • An independent statutory body to monitor progress across all aspects of food
  • A cross-cutting national food plan
  • New duties on public bodies
  • Statutory targets in key areas – food poverty, healthy weight, food waste etc plus other sectoral measures