Show your support: Respond to the Right to Food Consultation by
15 September

Elaine Smith MSP is a member of the Scottish Parliament who is interested in a new law to tackle issues of food insecurity and other challenges facing Scotland’s food system. She believes that putting the right to food into Scots law will help make Scotland’s food system fairer and help ensure a future free from hunger. She is seeking everyone’s opinion on her proposal for this new law. The public consultation will run for 12 weeks and everyone will have until 15 September 2020 to make their feelings known on the proposal.
Nourish Scotland heartily welcomes the launch of the consultation. Although the right to food is an established right in international law, we believe that direct incorporation of the right to food into Scot’s laws is necessary to ensure that the right is realised for everyone. Realising people’s right to food means that it is the State’s responsibility to ensure that food is available, accessible and adequate for everyone. This includes, for example: ensuring that businesses play their part in the sale of safe, nutritious food for all; government takes action to tackle low pay in the food industry; and ensuring a compassionate system of social security which enables people to eat well and access food with dignity.
We’re encouraging as many people as possible to engage and respond to the consultation – to help make this easier we’ve written a guide to responding to the consultation.

Guide to Responding to Right to Food Consultation

Scroll down and read through our guide – it includes explanations of the questions and some ideas for what to include in your response. Your response will be more powerful if you include your own words and experiences, but you can use our words if you would prefer to.  The consultation has 13 questions – you do not need to respond to all of them, you can just respond to one question if you would like to, but policy-makers want to hear your opinion on as many of the questions as possible.
Submitting your response
All responses should be received no later than 15 September 2020. The preferred way of responding is through the online portal, called smart survey. Smart survey is accessible at this link: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/RightToFood/ 

Question 1: Which of the following best expresses your view on enshrining the human right to food into Scots law? (Fully supportive, Partially supportive, Neutral, Partially opposed, Fully opposed, Unsure)

Click here to find out what this question is about
​The question is asking your view on putting the right to food directly into Scots law. Although the right to food is protected in international law, it is not very effective in Scotland because it is not part of national Scottish law. Enshrining it into Scots law would put more pressure on the government to take action because it would be easier to enforce and deliver the right to food for everyone.

How you might want to answer:

​Fully supportive
The government has a duty to make sure everyone can afford and enjoy a healthy and sustainable diet, the people producing the food have safe working conditions and receive a fair wage, and food is produced in a way that respects animals and the environment. Putting the right to food into Scots law would make it more likely that the Scottish Government prioritises wellbeing of people & environment in decisions on the food system.

Question 2: Which of the following best describes your view on the creation of an independent statutory body with responsibility for the right to food? (Fully supportive, Partially supportive, Neutral, Partially opposed, Fully opposed, Unsure)

Click here to find out what this question is about
​The question is asking your view on the creation of an independent statutory body. An independent statutory body is a group of experts and representatives from across the food system, who are not part of the Government. The body would representation of people whose right to food is most at risk. The body would have the power to review and report on the actions the government has taken to deliver on the right to food. The body would be a way of holding the government to account and demand progress on managing the food system – particularly if the government is not doing a good job.

How you might want to answer:

Fully supportive

The food system is complicated and made up of many parts of Government, as well as individuals and companies. Everyone involved in the food system has different goals and priorities, and at the moment, we do not have a good picture of how well the problems facing the food system are being tackled. An independent statutory body would recognise that food insecurity, climate change, public health, biodiversity, workers’ rights, animal welfare, access to land, and waste are all part of the food system and that a systems-wide approach is essential to protecting everyone’s right to food and making sure the Government keeps its promises.
We need an independent organisation which is not the Government to review and question the Government’s plans, provide guidance, gather evidence, and report on how well the Government is delivering on its duties. It is important that the Government is held to account over its obligations and an independent statutory body is an important part of ensuring this happens.

Question 3: What do you think would be the main practical advantages and disadvantages of the proposed Bill?

How you might want to answer:

It is important to enshrine the right to food into Scots law because everyone has the right to be able to eat well as part of a fair, healthy and sustainable food system.
Advantages of the bill are that it will:
• help to make sure that human rights are at the centre of all of the Government’s decisions on the food system
• establish an independent statutory body to review and report on the Government’s work and ensure that its plans and decisions are scrutinised
• put duties on the Scottish Government and public bodies to set targets and measure its progress on making sure everyone enjoys their right to food
Disadvantages of the bill:
• The consultation is mostly focused on food insecurity. This is a very important part of the right to food, but equal consideration should be given to other important aspects of the right. For example, the fair treatment of people producing the food, maintaining high food standards, fair access to land, and the impact of the food system on animals and the environment. The bill will be strengthened by increasing the focus on other aspects of the right to food.

Question 4: Which of the following expresses your view of enshrining a right to food into Scots law as a priority in advance of any further Scottish Government legislation on wider human rights?

Click here to find out what this question is about
The Scottish Government has promised that it will put other human rights, such as the right to housing or the right to work, into Scots law. The question is asking how supportive you are of putting the right to food into Scots law by itself, or waiting for it to go into law as part of this bigger commitment.

How you might want to answer:

Fully supportive
It is encouraging that the Scottish Government has made a wider commitment to human rights in the future. However, we do not know when this will happen. There is also a concern that the right to food, which has been overlooked in the past, will continue to be overlooked if made part of a bigger package of rights. The challenges facing the food system are urgent, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and worsened many of these challenges.
It is essential that right to food is put into Scots law as a priority, so the Scottish Government puts the wellbeing of people and the planet at the heart of its plans for recovery of the food system.

Question 5: What advantages or disadvantages would there be to establishing a statutory body with responsibility for the right to food?

Click here to find out what this question is about
A statutory body would be a group of experts and representatives from across the food system who have the power to review and demand progress on the government’s plans and actions. The question is asking your view on what the advantages and disadvantages would be for creating a statutory body.

How you might want to answer:

​Advantages of establishing a statutory body:
•    A statutory body can review and report on the Government’s actions
•    A statutory body can help to ensure that the Government works across the whole food system and recognises the links between, for example, food insecurity, low wages and poor health
•    A statutory body can provide guidance and research to ensure the right to food is at the centre of Government decision making
•    A statutory body can help ensure the Government is held to account
•    A statutory body can ensure there is more diverse representation in decisions on our food system

Disadvantages of establishing a statutory body:
•    It is important that the statutory body is independent from the Government so they provide different perspectives and are able to impartially judge progress
•    The independent statutory body should include people like scientists, farmers and those who have had to visit food banks as they bring experience and knowledge needed to shape a food system that is fit for everyone

Question 6: Which of the following best describes your view of placing responsibility for guaranteeing the right to food on the Scottish Government? (Fully supportive, Partially supportive, Neutral, Partially opposed, Fully opposed, Unsure)

Click here to find out what this question is about
This question is asking your view on the Scottish Government being responsible for making sure everyone in Scotland enjoys their right to food. In other words, do you believe it should be the Government’s job to tackle the problems facing the food system and to ensure that people have the right to food.

How you might want to answer:

Fully Supportive
The right to food recognises that it is the Government that has the responsibility to deliver the right to food for everyone in Scotland. Charities have been filling the gaps left by Government when it comes to addressing the growing levels of food insecurity; this has led to more reliance on food banks. Workers in the food sector suffer high levels of job insecurity and poor wages. The way we produce food is harmful to animals and the environment.
The right to food recognises that these problems are Government failures as it is their responsibility to ensure everyone has enough money to afford nutritious food, through fair wages or adequate benefits, and our food system promotes the wellbeing of people, animals and our environment.

Question 7: What impact do you believe bringing the right to food into law would have on:
(a) Reducing Food Insecurity
(b) Improving People's Health

How you might want to answer:

 (a) Reducing food insecurity
Significant impact
This right to food makes it clear that it is the Government’s responsibility to tackle food insecurity. Charities and food banks should not be responsible for dealing with these issues. Putting the right to food into Scots law will ensure more Government resources go towards finding better alternatives to addressing food insecurity than charity and food banks, for example, ensuring a compassionate benefits system which enables people to eat well and access food with dignity.  It is important that we have more than words on paper; putting the right to food into law will not end food banks overnight, and we need additional measures like an independent statutory body to monitor the Government’s plans and decisions and make sure that it is taking appropriate actions.

(b) Improving people’s health
Significant impact
The right to food makes it clear that it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that everyone can access food that is of good quality, nutritious, safe to eat and available with dignity. Putting the right to food into law will ensure the Government acts to change the food system so that it promotes better public health – both physically and mentally.
Fairer wages, more secure employment and adequate social security benefits will mean that people are better able to afford nutritious food for them and their families. This will likely have a positive impact on mental health as stress, anxiety and depression associated with financial worries will lessen. Diet-related illnesses are a longstanding issue and enshrining the right to food into Scots law will ensure that policy and law makers treat the food system as a health priority. But, we also need other measures such as an independent statutory body to hold the Government to account and ensure that these aims are met.

Question 8: Taking account of both costs and potential savings, what financial impact would you expect the proposed Bill to have on:
(a) Government and the public sector
(b) Businesses
(c) Individuals

How you might want to answer:

(a) Government and the public sector
Some increase in cost
It will cost the Government and the public-sector some money to make the necessary changes as it is underinvestment which has led to the failings we have long seen in our food system. For example, establishing an independent statutory body will be an investment. This will lead to some increase in cost but, equally, ensuring the food system improves public health will put less strain on the NHS. Currently, diet-related illnesses place huge avoidable costs on our health service. The financial impact of greater investment in the food system will be more than balanced out by an improvement to public health – as well as the positive impact on society and the environment.
(b) Businesses
Some increase in cost
Businesses may have some increases in cost due to pay raises for staff whose wages are too low to afford nutritious food for them and their families. Unfair employment practices usually stay in place because they cut costs for businesses. However, there are also savings for businesses by changing these unfair practices. For example, there are likely to be fewer sick-days for staff who are mentally and physically healthier. A healthier workforce will be a more productive workforce and this will benefit the businesses. The food sector has struggled with job retention, but better conditions and fairer wages will attract more people into the sector providing more financial stability for businesses. Additionally, a shift in public attitudes means that the goodwill that businesses get from acting ethically should help their business attract more customers and it will increase the value of their product on international markets. Finally, in line with the Scottish Government’s climate change goals, businesses going greener may lead to fewer financial penalties for waste and pollution – resulting in further savings.
(c) Individuals
Some reduction in cost
Individuals that are unable to afford nutritious food for themselves and their families will see a reduction to their costs. Putting the right to food into law will place the responsibility on the Government to ensure everyone can afford nutritious food, through fair wages or adequate benefits. Though this is not about making food cheaper; it is about making sure everyone in Scotland can access healthy food with dignity. So, individuals and families would see a reduction in their costs relative to their income.
People will be mentally and physically healthier as a result and this can have far reaching positive financial implications. Improved public health can, for example, improve performance in school, resulting in better job prospects.

Question 9: Are there ways in which the Bill could achieve its aim more cost-effectively (e.g.by reducing costs or increasing savings)?

How you might want to answer:

No, the purpose of the Bill is long term investment in the food system. The importance has been food system has been overlooked by the Government for years. The right to food is about tackling the problems facing our food system. This requires ambition and big changes across the whole food system. The focus of any Bill on the right to food should be about strong social security, fair employment, protecting animals and the planet, and improving people’s lives. This is worth our investment.

Question 10: What overall impact is the proposed Bill likely to have on equality, taking account of the following protected characteristics (under the Equality Act 2010): age, disability, gender re-assignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation?

How you might want to answer:

Positive 
The right to food is about improving the food system for the benefit of everyone in Scotland. Equality is at the heart of the right to food. We know that certain groups in society are more vulnerable to things like unfair employment practices, low wages or reliance on inadequate social security benefits. Improving these issues will have a positive impact on vulnerable people that suffer the most from these inequalities.

Question 11: In what ways could any negative impact of the Bill on equality be minimised or avoided?

How you might want to answer:

It is important to ensure that the independent statutory body includes representation from a diverse group of people. Scientists, farmers, food sector workers, charities and those forced to visit food banks must be involved as they would bring a range of experiences and knowledge needed to make a food system fit for everyone. It is important that this representation takes into account protected characteristics such as age, disability, gender re-assignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation. Promoting equality is at the heart of the right to food and so it must be key to any decisions about our food system.

Question 12: Do you consider that the proposed bill can be delivered sustainably, i.e. without having likely future disproportionate economic, social and/or environmental impacts?

How you might want to answer:

Yes
The bill will have positive social and environmental impacts, and positive or neutral economic impacts. Making farming and fishing less wasteful and less polluting will have a positive environmental impact.  Improving wages and social security so that individuals and families can afford a healthy diet will have a positive social impact. And improving business employment practices may come at an initial cost increase, but the benefit of job retention, a healthier workforce, and better public perception of those businesses should have a long term positive economic impact.

Question 13: Do you have any other comments or suggestions on the proposal?

How you might want to answer:

It is important that the right to food is put into Scots law. Our food system should be a Governmental priority as for too long it is has been overlooked. There is a danger that this bill does not adequately focus on all aspects of the food system. Any proposals on the right to food are best put into law as part of a bill on the whole of the food system. These proposals on the right to food fit very well into the Good Food Nation Bill – a food bill that was due to be introduced in Spring 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Good Food Nation Bill can change our food system by working across the whole food supply chain and looking after people and the planet. It should be based upon the right to food so that the Government knows what is important when it makes decisions on the food system.
The Good Food Nation Bill will work across the whole food system, from production to processing, distribution, selling, purchasing and consumption to ensure better outcomes for individuals, workers, the NHS, animals, and the environment.