Time for Transformation: Good Food Nation (Scotland) Act
After years in the making, Scotland now has a framework legislation for food policy: the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Act. Under this new Act, Scotland will be the first UK nation to have a national food plan. If this plan is done well, then it will be our opening to the better food system that this nation needs.
The Good Food Nation ambition formally began in 2014, with the vision that by 2025 Scotland will be:
“a Good Food Nation, where people from every walk of life take pride and pleasure in, and benefit from, the food they produce, buy, cook, serve, and eat each day”
After years of campaigning and commitment, the Good Food Nation bill was introduced to Scottish parliament in October 2021. It then went through 3 stages of parliamentary consideration, welcoming evidence and input from a cross-section of stakeholders. Not only did it come out the other side looking much better than it did going in, but it passed with politically rare cross-party support.
What’s in it?
The Act requires the Scottish Government, Local Authorities and health boards to create food plans. This will mean that Scotland will soon have a national, and multiple local, food plans that must all set out:
1) main outcomes to be achieved in relation to food-related issues;
2) the policies needed to do this; and
3) the measures that will be used to assess progress toward these outcomes.
In the preparation of these plans, the Act makes it a statutory requirement for Scottish ministers and relevant authorities to have regard to certain international instruments. Importantly, this includes article 11 from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which sets out the right to food – meaning the plans will have to demonstrate how they satisfy the delivery of the right to food.
To oversee that this kind of preparation and delivery happens, the Act introduces a new independent food commission. This Scottish Food Commission will hold the food plans to account as well as provide advice and recommendations which it considers relevant to achieving the GFN vision.
Late 2023. The first draft of the national GFN plan is expected to be released by the end of this year. Once released, a public consultation process will begin whereby everyone will be able to share their views, concernsand recommendations for the plan.
Early-mid 2024. The proposed plan will then be laid before parliament, beginning the process of reviewing and processing the plan.
Late 2024. The final plan is set to come into effect in late 2024. It is at this time that the Commission will also be established.
2025.Once this is completed Local Authorities and Health Boards will follow with their plans in 2025.
The plans will all need to publish a progress report every two years and be formally reviewed every five years, with revisions allowed and welcomed where necessary.
The passing of this Bill warrants much celebration, but the work really starts when these plans roll out. We must keep enthusiasm high and channel it into creating the best possible version of national and local food plans – plans that mean everyone in Scotland can afford food that is good for themselves, good for the people that produced it and good for the planet.