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Section 8A — Food and drink: guidance about sustainable development

Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:30 am on 14th March 2007.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 11:30 am, 14th March 2007

The fifth group of amendments is on food and drink: guidance about sustainable development.

Amendment 28, in the name of John Home Robertson, is grouped with amendments 29 to 31.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

I will be moving amendment 28, but before doing so I draw members' attention to a declaration of interest—I am a sleeping partner in a family farming business.

My amendments 28 to 30 would add consideration of the carbon footprint and food miles to the agenda for the guidance on the procurement of food for schools. There is a depressing assumption that European competition rules require public agencies to buy everything through big, remote procurement and distribution companies, so that school pupils, hospital patients and even MSPs are all doomed to get the same palletised and desiccated fare on their dinner plates. Well, some local authorities have demonstrated that it does not have to be like that.

Members of the committee who visited Hurlford primary school found that East Ayrshire Council is buying vegetables, dairy produce, bread, meat and fish directly from local producers. Children there are getting healthy, fresh and appetising food. At the same time, they are learning lessons about food production in their home area. The council is getting good value for money, too. Furthermore, because the food has not had to be trucked to and from depots in Lincolnshire or Essex, there is a saving in carbon emissions into the bargain.

I congratulate councils such as East Ayrshire Council and North Lanarkshire Council that are already procuring local food. I have already spoken to East Lothian Council and the National Farmers Union Scotland in East Lothian about the case for a similar food initiative for schools in my constituency.

Proper consideration of the location of food and drink sources, and of transport costs and distances, must be relevant. The objective of my amendments 28 to 30 is to help to promote the local procurement of local food and drink for schools throughout Scotland, and I hope that colleagues will support the proposal.

I move amendment 28.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

The addition of section 8A by the Executive was welcome. As John Home Robertson has suggested, the whole committee was impressed by the work of the Soil Association's food for life programme and by the local authorities that are working with it. All members of the committee expressed support for that and called on the Executive to ensure that issues such as sustainability, local procurement and the use of organic and unprocessed food and drink were addressed by the bill. It is therefore good that section 8A was added.

My amendment 31 is just a wee tweak. In the committee's stage 1 report, we agreed that the Executive's position on reissuing existing guidance on local procurement and sustainability was not enough. We need strengthened guidance, because reissuing guidance that has existed for a number of years and has not done the job will not be enough.

Amendment 31 asks ministers to annually review their guidance and reissue strengthened guidance as they see appropriate. That would be a reasonable step, given that sustainability and sustainable development are relatively dynamic and fluid policy areas, the interpretation and understanding of which change from time to time. It would be reasonable to expect ministers to keep abreast of any such changes and to feed them into the guidance on sustainable development in the procurement of food in schools.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

We are committed to sustainable development and we affirmed that commitment by lodging amendments on sustainable development at stage 2.

We are all aware of the excellent work that has taken place in East Ayrshire Council within the context of the existing non-statutory guidance. However, the bill now provides for statutory guidance to be issued on sustainable development. That will mean that local authorities will have a statutory duty to have regard to that guidance when procuring food and drink or catering services for schools. The guidance will include advice on objectives such as local sourcing, waste and packaging issues, fair trade food and sustainability assurance schemes. It will also include advice on how to pursue those various objectives while staying within European Union procurement law.

Although our overarching priority is to ensure that healthy food is provided, John Home Robertson's amendments 28 to 30 aim to ensure that, in providing it, authorities also take account of relevant sustainability objectives. At stage 2, John Home Robertson's amendment on sustainable development guidance caused me some concern, because it stated that guidance had to include consideration of local produce, and I was worried about EU procurement rules. However, amendments 28 to 30 address the concerns that I expressed, and I am confident that they pose no problem, so I will be happy to support them.

I turn now to Patrick Harvie's amendment 31. As a matter of good policy practice, the Executive keeps guidance under review. One of the benefits of having guidance is that it is flexible: we can revise it in light of developments in sustainable development policy, food policy or procurement rules. One of the main reasons why the Executive has supported the introduction of a power to issue guidance, rather than a duty under the bill, is for that very reason of flexibility.

Amendment 31 is silent on the circumstances under which it would be appropriate to revise and reissue the guidance. In effect, it would leave ministers in the same position as at present. How the process would be monitored and enforced is also unclear. I support Patrick Harvie's intention that the guidance should be reviewed, and I assure him that that will happen as a matter of good practice. However, amendment 31 is unnecessary and I will oppose it.

Amendment 28 agreed to.

Amendments 29 and 30 moved—[John Home Robertson]—and agreed to.

Amendment 31 moved—[Patrick Harvie].

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 31 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 21

For: Adam, Brian, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Frances, Fabiani, Linda, Fox, Colin, Gibson, Rob, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Kane, Rosie, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Robison, Shona, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Watt, Ms Maureen
Against: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Eadie, Helen, Fergusson, Alex, Finnie, Ross, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McCabe, Mr Tom, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Petrie, Dave, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robson, Euan, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 32, Against 72, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 31 disagreed to.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

That concludes consideration of amendments.