Food

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 17 March 2016.

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Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-15826, in the name of Alison Johnstone, on Scotland’s food future. The debate will be concluded without any question being put. I invite members who wish to speak in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons as soon as possible, please. I also invite MSPs and members of the public who are leaving the chamber to do so quickly and quietly, please.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament believes that everyone in Scotland should have financial and geographical access to nutritious food both as a right and with dignity; welcomes the work of the Scottish Food Coalition and its report, PLENTY: Food, Farming and Health in a New Scotland; applauds efforts to strengthen community-based food networks and end food poverty, and commends the work of Granton Community Gardens, Edinburgh Community Food, Broomhouse Health Strategy Group, Pilton Health Project, Leith Community Crops in Pots, Edinburgh Food Belt, Nourish, the Cyrenians and groups providing emergency food relief to people across the Lothians.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

I welcome the opportunity to debate in Parliament Scotland’s food future, and I thank colleagues who have made that possible by supporting my motion.

My motion highlights the work of the Scottish food coalition and its report “PLENTY: Food, Farming and Health in a New Scotland”. The coalition is made up of several organisations whose contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of people in Scotland is widely recognised, and deservedly so. The report is a landmark report that should be discussed far and wide, and steps should be taken to implement it. It begins with the statement:

“We have plenty of land in Scotland, and plenty of sea, and plenty of skilled people, scientists and innovators. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have plenty of good food for everyone.”

Hear, hear.

It is absolutely the case that, as the report states,

“At the moment, our food system is characterised by inequalities and exploitation.”

Given the importance of food—it really is one of the few things that we cannot live without—our food system should be founded on the principles of social and environmental justice. A food system that is founded on those principles would enable us to address inequality, climate change, declining wildlife, animal welfare and poor health.

Some people may be of the view that business as usual is “Just grand, thank you very much”, but if we are what we eat, many people in Scotland are clearly not eating well. In a country with

“plenty of land ... and ... sea”, why is that the case? Why are 65 per cent of people in Scotland overweight or obese, and why is it that in 2014-15 almost 120,000 people required emergency food aid and almost a third of those were children? That reliance on food aid exists in a country that rightly celebrates its food and drink sector. However, the focus is very much export based, with much ado about whisky and salmon—despite the environmental damage that fish farms create in Scotland—to boost the profits of companies, many of which are based outside Scotland. I would like to see more focus on an agroecology approach and more investment in growing our organic sector.

Fifteen per cent of Scottish households do not own cutlery. Such is the concern about our food culture, which is impacting terribly on our health, that leading consultants have coined the new term “diabesity”, which reflects the relationship between obesity and diabetes. That epidemic, which has a global reach and impact, also has a very local one. It costs health and happiness and, like demographic change and population increase, puts our national health service budget under increasing pressure.

Corporations can and do make huge profits from dominating the food market, often with unhealthy food and unsustainable ways of growing and producing the food that we eat. However, the public purse pays for the pollution and ill health. Lobbying at the highest levels of Government has created the perverse logic that is needed for our leaders to think that international deals such as the transatlantic trade and investment partnership deal are a good idea for our food system.

It does not have to be that way. We are all aware of amazing projects in our communities; there is in the Lothians region a fantastic collection of those projects and community energy, which connect people to Scotland’s true food future. Community gardeners are taking over Granton’s street corners to create mini gardens, vegetable plots and communal meals. The Broomhouse Health Strategy Group and the Pilton Community Health Project work with people on budgeting, cooking skills, getting them more active in their daily lives and much more. Leith Community Crops in Pots is building a more rural feeling from concrete patches in Leith. We can grow almost anywhere. The Cyrenians at the Royal Edinburgh hospital and its Leith FareShare depot and kitchen are doing an excellent job helping people to learn to cook, enjoy food together and appreciate all the wondrous things that food can do.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

On Monday, I visited a fantastic project in Balfron in my constituency. It is a Food Connections project, the aim of which is to encourage pupils to understand where their food comes from and how to cook it. A polytunnel has been established, in which food is being grown for the kids to use. Does Alison Johnstone think that we should have such exemplary projects throughout Scotland?

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

I thank Bruce Crawford for mentioning that project because it is a fantastic example of making the best use of land everywhere. If we can engage pupils in our playgrounds from the earliest age, what better use of space can we make? There is so much space that is unused when it could be productive.

Musselburgh Transition Toun is another example. It is working wonders with a wee community garden by the river. Edinburgh Community Food is building a network across the city, and many other groups are doing fantastic jobs providing emergency food relief. I want to mention two of them: Transition Edinburgh South and the wonderful walled garden at Gracemount. There are undoubtedly many more that I have failed to mention, and they are all working wonders.

Food should help us to grow and to get well when we are not well; it should make us feel good. Really nutritious food helps us to keep well and gives us the ability to deal with busy lives, no matter how old we are. It gives us personal resilience. Local food networks are vital to the development of resilience at community level. We need to think about the future and about our ability to produce the food that we need closer to home.

In yesterday’s stage 3 proceedings on the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, I spoke about the situation of the smallholder Jim Telfer, who is a tenant farmer who fears losing both the land that he rents and his livelihood, because his land is where the film studio that was discussed at First Minister’s question time, which is the subject of a speculative proposal, would be located. Is his farm on poor-quality land? No—it is on prime agricultural land. I hope that that will be recognised and valued, and that the film studio will be built elsewhere. Cumbernauld has been discussed as a possible location, but Shawfair, which is nearby, has excellent transport links and a school that focuses on the creative industries. Members of the local Damhead community have rallied round Jim and have campaigned hard. The vision that they have for the land where they live is for it to be formally recognised as Edinburgh’s food belt. We need to think about the idea of urban crofts. Green-belt land has never faced such development pressures, but we need to think about where the food that citizens within and outwith Edinburgh’s green belt eat comes from.

The food belt is a compelling idea—it represents a much better way of thinking about the value of our green belt and its benefits. Land in the food belt is a way of connecting us to our food. Land here could have many more local businesses providing employment to people in cities and in more rural areas. For too many people, the green belt is a patch of land that they commute through without giving it much thought. We can rethink that land.

I hope that the minister understands not just the power of ideas, but the power of money. Yesterday, I learned that the funding that allowed the Scottish food coalition to form has been cut—in fact, it has been completely removed: Nourish Scotland’s funding has gone from £90,000 to nothing.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You must draw to a close, please.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

I will.

Nourish Scotland would like to tender for work, but it turns out that the only tender that is available to it is one that wraps up a massive amount of work on local food in a £3 million contract, which is inappropriate for small and medium-sized enterprise bidders.

I congratulate and thank all those who are working to make us a better food nation, from our school dinner ladies to the Soil Association. Let us make sure that we are not just a well fed but a properly nourished population.

I would be grateful if the cabinet secretary could address the funding situation that I outlined when he closes the debate.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Many thanks.

We are tight for time today, so speeches should be of four minutes.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I congratulate Alison Johnstone on her motion and I congratulate all the local groups that are mentioned in it, especially those that are based in my constituency, which I will talk about shortly. I also congratulate the Scottish food coalition on its excellent report, which rightly emphasises the need to have the right to food in legislation. I hope that that will be taken on board in the next session of the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish food coalition report also emphasises that the core principles of environmental awareness and sustainability should be at the heart of production.

Unfortunately, the reality is very different. Instead of a right to food, we have an increasing number of food banks and unacceptable food poverty, which has been highlighted in a recent report by the Pilton Community Health Project, which is mentioned in the motion. Its report, “Good Food for All”, found that poverty and food poverty are intrinsically linked, and that securing a fairer food system is very difficult in the light of very deeply rooted and persistent poverty. That is why that excellent project, which I have known for more than a quarter of a century, has always emphasised the importance of dealing with the broader determinants of poor health and health inequalities. It has also had excellent initiatives specifically on food and other lifestyle factors.

The Pilton Community Health Project’s report, which is certainly worth reading, also notes the rise in voluntary activity to help people to eat, and to eat well. I want to highlight two excellent projects in my constituency that do precisely that. The Granton community gardeners, to whom Alison Johnstone referred, work in north Edinburgh, not far from the Pilton Community Health Project. They are local residents who are growing fruit and vegetables in several garden plots, some of which are on street corners in Granton.

The Scottish food coalition makes an interesting point in its report, to which Alison Johnstone’s motion refers, when it highlights the power of planning to ensure that vacant land is safeguarded for growing crops. That is an important part of the subject.

A great many positives are coming out of the food-growing project in Granton. There is an educational dimension, with many people learning how to grow food and acquiring information about food. Indeed, the group ran a 10-week course for local people to encourage such knowledge. There is the opportunity to taste new fruit and vegetables, and the project builds community cohesion, as people talk to neighbours to whom they might not have talked before, as they garden—which, of course, is an intrinsically healthy activity. Meals are made from the produce and are then shared and distributed to a large number of families and volunteers. The project also has a strong environmental dimension, which is crucial. Its aims include encouraging care for the environment and an awareness of local wildlife and biodiversity.

The environmental dimension is also extremely important for Leith Community Crops in Pots, which is also mentioned in the motion. Crops in Pots educates people about the interaction between food and the environment and, more important, puts environmental sustainability into practice by growing food, planting trees, helping to reduce food waste and encouraging dietary change in order to reduce environmental impacts and improve health. The charity is grateful for the climate challenge funding that it received in the most recent round—and, I think, the previous round—which has enabled it to build up a great team, to establish infrastructure including raised beds, sheds and a tree nursery, and to build close relationships with the community. Crops in Pots has put in another bid, and I hope that the minister will look favourably on it, because funding is crucial to the next stage of the charity’s development, if it is to expand its community outreach, create habitats and, of course, continue to save carbon. The charity works in local schools, holds community events and is involving more and more local people, but it needs a further round of climate challenge funding if it is to keep its excellent work going.

Photo of Christian Allard Christian Allard Scottish National Party

I did not sign the motion, because although I read the report and thought that it was very good, I think that something is missing: it needs a stronger emphasis on where people buy their food every day. People buy their food from the major retailers. We need to take a stronger approach with the major retailers, not just by having better legislation and regulation as in other countries, but by ensuring that the major retailers sell local produce. To my mind, that should be at the centre of everything that we do when we consider food. I very much enjoyed the report, but it does not have enough on that.

I am delighted that Alison Johnstone secured the debate. The “PLENTY” report starts with a statement that begins:

“We have plenty of land in Scotland”.

We do, and because Parliament backed the Scottish Government’s Land Reform (Scotland) Bill yesterday, as Alison Johnstone said, more of our land will be used to grow food. That is really the heart of the issue.

The statement goes on to say that Scotland has “plenty of sea”. We do. Scottish fish are back. I have been saying that for a long time—I worked in the fishing industry for 30 years before I entered Parliament—but now the fish are back in terms of quantity and size, after the fantastic efforts of our fishermen over the past 10 years, and the fantastic efforts of this Parliament, the Scottish Government and the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment in backing our fishermen. That is good news.

The statement goes on to say that we also have

“plenty of skilled people”.

It is important to realise that our food industry in Scotland is part of our culture and is a subject of research in our universities, for example. We are able to produce food for export and for local consumption. We have fantastic experts in food production in this country, from farmers and fishermen to scientists and innovators.

I agree with the end of the statement, which says:

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have plenty of good food for everyone.”

The solution is always easy: people are always the solution, so we need to talk about people and understand more about food insecurity.

I have met a lot of people in my region, including Dave Simmers, who is the chief executive of Community Food Initiatives North East—CFINE. He has a fantastic organisation that has developed more and more. He used to work for the Cyrenians and has been working in the area for the past 40 years, so he knows the food issues and how they are linked to poverty. CFINE has had its Fruit Mart shop in Peterhead since October last year. Previously, it was in the village of Longside. It also has a charity shop that not only provides local produce but employs 17 people and offers support and employment guidance to adults with learning difficulties. A lot is happening in the countryside and in our cities. We need to welcome that.

Scientists are important. Many members will know Dr Flora Douglas from the University of Aberdeen who often comes to Parliament. She is passionate about what food represents. It is more than food: it is about our culture, our society and how we see ourselves.

On Tuesday night, Rob Gibson MSP hosted the fantastic food for thought event, at which another expert—Shirley Spear, the chair of the Scottish Food Commission—talked about the work and outcomes involved in the school programme. I recommend that members read the Food Commission’s interim report. It is a very interesting read.

We need a different approach. It must involve everybody, including businesses and our food producers. We need to buy local, buy Scottish and trust our farmers, fishermen, food producers and experts. That way, we will ensure that we have plenty of good food of everyone.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

I come to the debate from a slightly different point of view, having spent most of my life in the food production industry or the farming industry prior to becoming involved in politics.

In the opening speech, Alison Johnstone said that, in Scotland, there should be

“plenty of good food for everyone.”

I could not agree more. Scotland’s farming industry is one of the most efficient and productive to be found anywhere in the world. The intensive methods that it uses are high output and low impact and we have the highest standards of animal welfare to be found anywhere on the planet. We have a great deal to be proud of.

I have no wish to offend or to cause discord when other members talk about organic methods. I do not object to organic farming, but I object to the idea that that method is somehow better, more appropriate or worthy of greater support than the traditional Scottish methods than many Scottish farmers use to produce high-quality food. I will always defend those farmers.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

I am sure that Alex Johnstone will agree that organic farming is traditional and that it could do with greater support in Scotland than it receives.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

It is important to realise that, if a particular method is productive and worthwhile, it should compete in a competitive environment with other methods of farming. We should demonstrate what is more effective by seeing what we achieve at the end of the day.

The truth is that there is a problem with food production and supply in Scotland but it is not at the farming end. Although there are problems with the returns that are gained from the marketplace—we must work to achieve more on that front—we are extremely good at producing food. In spite of the fact that many of us can criticise the supermarkets for much of what they do, the supermarkets have an efficient method of distributing high-quality food to the marketplace.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

I ask Mr Finnie to let me carry on. I have only four minutes.

Food is produced and it gets to the shops where people can buy it. The problem is that not all people can afford to buy it. That is not caused by the cost of food. The truth is that, in terms of family income, food costs are about a 10th of what they were in the 1950s. Food costs are not the problem—the problem is the other costs to the family that cause distortions. Food is a relatively insignificant cost, but housing costs are higher than ever. Fuel and transport costs are high. As a natural result of that, food often becomes a low priority, although it has a low cost. That is why so many of the organisations that have been mentioned today are so important to ensuring that food is made available to those who find that food is the thing that drops off the table at the end of the day.

As I said, we have a good system in place and it does not need radical reform from the bottom up. However, it needs to be adapted to cater for the demands of the small minority who are currently suffering. The charitable sector does an enormous amount of good work, but we all know that the sector should not be required to achieve those objectives. Although we praise the charitable sector for the good work that it does, let us find a way to ensure that, in the future, the best of Scotland’s produce ends up in the hands of those who currently can least afford it.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I welcome the Scottish food coalition’s important set of policy asks in advance of the Scottish Parliament elections. The fact that the group is a coalition of environmental campaigners, anti-poverty campaigners, trade unions, farming and food producers gives us the impetus to think across the political agenda about food poverty, food quality and accessibility to food. That means that we can think about all the key policy levers that we need to put into place and pull.

On a side note, I thank Alison Johnstone for getting the issue on our agenda. I whole-heartedly agree with her about the funding for the project work that Nourish has been doing. That work is cutting edge and crucial in setting the agenda for the Scottish Government. I am interested to hear the cabinet secretary’s response on that in his closing remarks.

I am tempted to get sidetracked by responding to all of Alex Johnstone’s points, but I am not going to go there because it would get me too annoyed and I have only four minutes for my speech.

The agenda is important because it brings together fairness and social justice, applying that to the food chain and right across our communities. It is appropriate that we are at the end of Fairtrade fortnight. There are so many interconnections that we could be making. Focusing on the rights of workers and food growers in some of the most disadvantaged countries on the fair trade agenda and bringing that closer to home, we need to be thinking about the value that we give to food and the principles of fairness and social justice. Those things need to apply in Scotland, too. That theme runs through Alison Johnstone’s motion.

It is good to see the Scottish food coalition arguing for fair pay for those who work in our Scottish agriculture and horticulture industries; they are some of the lowest paid workers across the country.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

No, thank you.

That is why Scottish Labour has campaigned so strongly for the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board to be retained. The board is crucial to preventing the exploitation of vulnerable workers, whether that is for isolated workers in our rural communities, or in the particular challenge of protecting migrant workers. It has also been important in focusing on health and safety because workers in our rural communities can be isolated.

It is significant that Nourish and Unite have argued together the importance not just of retaining the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board, but of having a real living wage.

In yesterday’s debate on land reform, we were delighted to see the Scottish Government pick up the issue of human rights and food security. That chimes very well with the motion that we are considering. We should consider food security as part of human rights. We have adopted the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and now have the voluntary guidelines on responsible tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security. That brings a new dimension to our food policy for the future. That is our challenge.

I welcome the work that is being done by Nourish and the food coalition to put food policy in a national context. I argue very strongly that we also need to make the connections at a local level. I want to celebrate the work that is being done by those local groups. In the Lothians, we have the back greens initiative in Gorgie and Dalry, which has transformed people’s back greens and brought residents in tenements together.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Can you draw to a close, please?

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I also welcome the sustainable food cities initiative and I want to link in the work that is being done by our allotment-growing networks. Let us look at challenging what is being done for the future. A lot of work needs to be done. I would like to see food growing in our schools and in our hospitals, linking in to the eco schools movement and the community orchards movement.

We need to think about how we use our urban land but we also need to think about empowering people to be able to grow food. The allotments and gardens movement is a key way in which we can do that and we need to tie that in to community empowerment, health, and that wider food-growing movement, which I think will help us to address the issue of affordable food and accessibility to food.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You must close, please.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

It is the interconnection between that range of issues that will deliver on the fantastic work that is being done by the food coalition.

Photo of John Wilson John Wilson Independent

I congratulate Alison Johnstone on bringing this important debate to the chamber. I spoke recently in the chamber about the amount of food that is wasted and I questioned the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body about food waste in the Parliament. We know that much food is being wasted throughout the country and, although some of that food could be given to individuals and families, there are clearly other issues that need to be dealt with. It is not just about giving leftovers to charities to patch up a failing system; it is about making sure that the system works for everyone in society.

As others have mentioned, Scotland is a resource-rich nation. According to the Scottish Government, Scotland’s current farmable land amounts to roughly 5.6 million hectares, which equates to around 71 per cent of Scotland’s total land area. As an island nation, we are surrounded by the sea, as others have mentioned, and we have large rivers and lochs that could provide plentiful food if we were to use those opportunities. Like Sarah Boyack, I do not want to challenge Alex Johnstone now, but clearly there are issues with what he said in his speech.

As well as the projects that Alison Johnstone identified in her motion, people are working hard on a number of other projects throughout Scotland not only to make people aware of where the food on their plate comes from, but to encourage them to start growing their own food. I recently visited a small project in Kirkshaws that has a few raised beds and one polytunnel. It is bringing in schoolchildren and unemployed people to give them an opportunity to start growing their own healthy food and showing them where that food comes from.

We also have the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, which this Parliament passed and which states a desire to see an increase in the availability of land for allotments. That is one way of taking forward the debate, with people being able not only to access food but to access their own food, grow it, and be actively involved in understanding the production methods.

There is another issue: procurement policies in Scotland. I met a group on Tuesday who told me that they still find it difficult to get their produce on to the procurement agenda because of how the system works. If we can get local producers engaged in the procurement process so that they can supply schools, hospitals and other public sector buildings, that would give encouragement to that sector to develop and allow it to be actively involved in providing locally produced, locally sourced, nutritious food.

Comments must be made about the other people who are working in the food production sector. I pay tribute to John Hancox, who is involved in the Commonwealth Orchard and cosponsors the Parliament’s apple day every September. He has attempted on a number of occasions to get fruit trees grown in common space, in schools and in other areas. The aim was to show children and adults that food production could take place at a local level, and that planting fruit trees in common space could enable people to go along and help themselves to nutritious fruit rather than eating fruit that had travelled halfway around the world.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

The member should draw to a close, please.

Photo of John Wilson John Wilson Independent

We must be bolder in delivering opportunities for communities to have the resources to produce food locally. We need to work together to ensure that that works for the benefit of Scotland as a whole, and to end the food poverty that exists in Scotland.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I congratulate Alison Johnstone on bringing the debate to the chamber. It is a welcome, topical and timely debate, and it illustrates the growing importance that we all attach to Scotland’s food culture and systems, and the need to improve in those areas.

The report on which Alison Johnstone’s motion focuses, which is entitled “PLENTY: Food, Farming and Health in a New Scotland” and is published by the Scottish food coalition for a socially and environmentally just food system, is also timely, and it is another sign of the momentum behind the food debate in Scotland. I say to the authors of the report that it is first class, although I do not necessarily agree with absolutely everything in it. It discusses the ways in which we can change Scotland’s food culture and systems; that will not happen overnight, but the report certainly gives us many ideas for how we can get to a much better place in the future, and I support much of what is in it.

At my party’s conference at the weekend, I spoke at a meeting that was hosted by the RSPB and Nourish Scotland. There were a lot of common themes expressed by all the speakers at that very well-attended event.

As a country, we celebrate our food and drink industry and resources. Scotland has a fantastic wealth of natural resources, and the natural environment allows us to produce the raw materials. We have our seas, our fertile land—at a time when the rest of the planet is running out of fertile land—and we have the men and women with the skills to take the raw materials and turn them into fantastic produce that people in this country and overseas want to enjoy.

That brings an important economic benefit, and exports are an important part of that success. However, it would be unfair—in response to what Alison Johnstone said at one point—to say that Scottish food policy is all about exports and big business, and salmon and whisky. Those industries are immensely successful, and after all we want people to be able to afford to buy food, so they need jobs. We have those economic strengths and we should make the most of them in Scotland.

However, Scottish food policy has placed a huge emphasis over the past few years on the other dimensions of food policy, such as the environmental impact, particularly in the context of wanting to achieve our climate change targets. It has also focused on tackling the ironic situation in which we are able to produce so much nutritious food on our own doorstep and yet we have record-breaking diabetes and obesity statistics, which we wish was not the case. We have all that healthy food, but people are not enjoying it.

In addition, we have food poverty in Scotland, which is a mark of shame. The UK’s austerity agenda is largely responsible for where we are with that at present. I, like many other members, congratulate the many community initiatives and charitable efforts that are taking place across Scotland to ensure that people can access food at their time of need. The answer is clearly to ensure that people can afford to buy their own food in the first place, and the Scottish Government is bringing forward funding to help such initiatives.

Local food is undergoing a revolution in Scotland just now. Again, that has been supported by the Scottish Government, which gave more than £2 million between 2013 and 2016 to support many local initiatives across the country. Indeed, 140 initiatives have been supported through that funding, ranging from community food initiatives, to ensure that people can access food that is grown locally, to food festivals and other food events, which are important in supporting the local food revolution that is taking place in Scotland.

Photo of John Finnie John Finnie Independent

The cabinet secretary mentions all those small community projects; they are tremendous, and the aggregate effect can be very impressive. However, what part should planning policy play in food production? For instance, should the Government decide not to allow good agricultural land to be used for building?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

Planning policy should play a role. I welcomed the fact that many of the initiatives that members mentioned in the debate originated from and have been supported by the Scottish Government. For instance, the issue of planning policy and allotments came out of a meeting that I had a few years ago with a Fife Council official, who told me the difficulties of securing land for allotments in Fife. We have now managed to change the legislation in Scotland to deal with those sorts of issues, and planning policy is at the heart of that.

Before I close I will touch on two or three other issues that members raised, the first of which is food waste. One of the ironies is that there are people who cannot afford or access good quality food at a time when, as a society, we waste a lot of food. That is a crazy place to be, given the impact that it has on our pockets, households and budgets, as well as the fact that it is bad for the environment and that it simply is a waste of a valuable resource. The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012, which this Parliament passed, mean that measures are in place to stop food waste going to landfill, and the Scottish Government has set Europe’s most ambitious food waste target: to cut food waste in Scotland by a third by 2025. We are leading Europe on tackling food waste.

Food waste is also a global issue. People talk about genetically modified food—which this Government does not support—as a way to produce more food and feed more mouths around the world. However, the United Nations reports that, as a planet, we waste around a third of the food that is produced in the world. About 28 per cent—if I remember the statistic correctly—of our agricultural land is used to grow food that is wasted. Clearly, to tackle food poverty and malnutrition around the world, we must tackle food waste at a global level as well as a Scottish level.

On tackling the issues at a European level, I agree that the common agricultural policy needs to be reformed. Indeed, if it was up to me I would rename it the “European food policy”, and there would be other dimensions within it.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

The cabinet secretary is in his last minute.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

Food education, which some members mentioned, is also crucial. It is not good enough that our young people do not know where the food on their plate comes from, how it was grown, the impact that it has on the environment or, most important, the impact that it has on their health. Only last week, at Holyrood high school in Edinburgh I announced about £870,000 of new money for food education initiatives in Scotland. Over the next year, that cash will support food education initiatives working with teachers, staff and pupils in many of our schools. More than 300,000 pupils have already benefited from Scottish Government food education money over the past few years.

Food education is key to changing Scotland’s food systems and food culture, and it is key to creating a good food nation in this country.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I thank you all for taking part in this important debate.

13:12 Meeting suspended.

14:30 On resuming—