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Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th September 2019.

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Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-18571, in the name of Alasdair Allan, on the 10th anniversary of Scottish food and drink fortnight. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament celebrates the 10th anniversary of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, which this year runs from 31 August to 15 September 2019; welcomes the aims of the fortnight to encourage more people to buy, eat and promote Scottish food and drink, and have as many people as possible taking part in the nation’s biggest food and drink celebration, with events taking place throughout the country; acknowledges the growth in Scotland’s food and drink sector and the contribution it makes to the economy, with a record £14.8 billion turnover and £6.3 billion in exports; acknowledges the ambition of the national food and drink strategy, Ambition 2030, to double the value of the industry by 2030, and believes that Scotland has some of the most popular protected food name products in Europe, including Stornoway Black Pudding PGI, which make a unique contribution to what it considers its food and drink success story.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

I am delighted to have secured tonight’s debate, which celebrates the 10th anniversary of Scottish food and drink fortnight. It is an event that has helped to ensure that Scotland’s outstanding food and drink industries start to get the profile that they have long deserved.

I thank the many members who signed my motion and those who are taking part in the debate. I hope that as many members as possible will be able to join us at the reception after the debate, for a chance to meet people from the industry and, I hope, sample some of their wares.

I do not expect to get extra time from the Presiding Officer for having a cold, so I will keep going.

A huge range of exciting developments are happening in Scotland’s food and drink sector across the country. As the member who secured tonight’s debate, I fully intend to abuse my position and draw on as many examples from my constituency as I feel that I can get away with.

Nationally, Scotland has a fantastic story to tell. Our produce enjoys an enviable reputation at home and abroad. The sector is a key pillar of the Scottish economy, directly employing 45,000 people and producing a record turnover of £14.8 billion last year, with £6.3 billion in exports alone. As members are aware, the importance of the sector extends far beyond direct employment and far beyond rural constituencies; it is a truly national industry.

Only last month, the enterprise minister, Jamie Hepburn, came to my island constituency to open the new Loomshed brewery on the Isle of Harris. Harris is, of course, already well known for its gin, and the distillery on Harris is now also quietly maturing the first batches of its own malt whisky, which are already exciting considerable interest in the whisky world, even before the angels have had time to claim much of their share. North Uist, too, now has its own gin distillery, while Lewis has Abhainn Dearg whisky. Meanwhile, the Western Isles continue to be famed for the production of everything from salmon and scallops to biscuits, black pudding, prawns, fudge, lamb and lobster.

Across Scotland, food producers are too numerous to mention—I leave the task of naming some of them to their respective local MSPs. We should not underestimate the sheer demand that exists around the world for—to take but three obvious examples—Scotch whisky, Scotch beef and Scottish salmon. That is before we even consider Scotland’s production of haggis, marmalade, confectionery, raspberries, tatties and a host of other products.

Farmers, fishermen, crofters, distillers, brewers, dairies, factories and countless other food producers are increasingly aware of the link that their businesses have with tourism—a link that actively and positively contributes towards the overall visitor experience of Scotland. The days when distilleries actively discouraged visitors, in the belief that they might be undercover spies from rival distilleries, are long gone. Whisky tourism now forms a central part of many distilleries’ business model, as new markets everywhere from Sweden to China are opened up by people who discover whisky while they are on their holidays.

It would be fair to say that Scotland’s tourism industry more generally has come a long way. Tourists now come with high expectations not just of the quality of what they will eat but of its local provenance. Visitors, whether they eat in restaurants or stay in self-catering accommodation, rightly expect to be able to obtain local food, which, in the past, was sometimes easier said than done.

We still have a long way to go in persuading some supermarkets of the benefits of stocking local produce—or even, in some cases, the benefits of marking Scottish produce as Scottish produce—but we are making progress on all fronts. Despite the very occasional much-publicised attempt at cultural appropriation of an iconic Scottish product, the overwhelming number of producers recognise that “Made in Scotland” represents a very attractive label to put on anything.

The programme for government that was presented to Parliament last week contained a number of welcome points of importance to the food and drink industry. The ambition for Scotland to be a good food nation, where people benefit from, and take pride and pleasure in, the food that we produce, buy, cook, serve and eat every day is, I hope, something that everyone across the chamber can support. Vital and warmly welcome though tourists are, Scotland’s food is obviously not just for them, but can contribute to a sense of place that benefits those who live here and those who visit in equal measure.

The commitment to lay a good food nation bill before Parliament to underpin the significant work already being carried out to achieve that ambition has been widely welcomed. It was encouraging that the Government is committed to continuing to promote and encourage more local sourcing of Scottish produce through public sector contracts, meaning that there will be more Scottish produce served in our schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, care homes and prisons. Such major public sector contracts close to home make the world of difference to our food industry and show Scotland’s commitment to tackling food miles, wherever that is practicable to do.

Brexit—I have gone and mentioned the word—represents uncertainty for the exporters of all food, not least those exporting live shellfish to France and Spain, who now face the task of getting their produce across international borders. People producing everything from Arbroath smokies to Stornoway black pudding currently benefit from the European Union’s protected geographical indications scheme, and they need information about what will come next—and that is even before we speculate about what form common agricultural policy funding or an equivalent might take beyond the next couple of years for our lamb, beef and other farming sectors, or before we touch on the stated concerns of the fish processing and soft berry industries, among many others, about the future supply of labour.

Notwithstanding those uncertainties, the Scottish food and drink sector is confident about the growing interest around the world in the excellent product that it has to sell. James Withers, who is the chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, recently said:

“By 2030 we want to have doubled the value of Scotland’s food and drink industry.”

That aim is set out in “Ambition 2030”, which is the growth strategy that seeks to position Scotland as one of the best places in the world in which to run a food and drink business and to attract and retain investment.

The goal is to double the turnover in farming, fishing and food and drink to £30 billion by 2030. In order to achieve its vision, the strategy will focus on producing a

“Coherent and joined-up education programme”, developing

“a new national industry recruitment campaign”, and creating a

“Nationwide mentoring programme”.

A decade ago, the food and drink sector had a low profile in the Scottish economy, with hardly any growth in the industry. Today, it is one of Scotland’s best-performing domestic sectors and fastest-growing export sectors. Scotland’s food and drink fortnight can claim at least some credit for that transformation, and I look forward to seeing it grow just as spectacularly over the coming 10 years.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I remind members that if they wish to speak, they must press their request-to-speak buttons. There are 10 members wanting to speak, which is great, but it means that you must keep to your time.

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

I am very grateful to my friend and colleague Dr Alasdair Allan for securing tonight’s members’ business debate to celebrate everything that is fantastic and great about Scotland’s food and drink industry and, of course, to shine a light on all the fabulous local produce in our constituencies.

In West Lothian, the food and drink industry supports 2,500 jobs in 60 companies. I am very pleased to say that, on more than one occasion in the Scottish Parliament canteen, I have seen Dr Allan and other colleagues from across the political divide tuck into haggis made by A J Hornig from West Calder.

Some of the best home-made grub that I have ever tasted was in the Decca, a bed and breakfast in Dr Allan’s constituency in Lewis. I think that that makes a point about the connectivity between our food and drink and tourism sectors.

I will share with members something that they are perhaps not aware of about my constituency. We—quite rightly—have a big focus on whisky. Whisky companies Glenmorangie and Glen Turner have large bases in West Lothian. There is also a rum distillery in Bellsquarry near Livingston, where artisan golden and spiced Mattuga rum is produced. The flavours and smells are very much inspired by east Africa. The product can be bought in Scotland or online. I am very pleased to congratulate Jacine Rutasikwa who, along with her husband, founded Matugga Distillers. She is one of the finalists at next week’s Women’s Enterprise Scotland awards in the start-up of the year category. I wish her well at the ceremony.

I welcome the commitment to a good food nation bill. We need a joined-up approach to food and food policy to ensure that more of Scotland’s larder ends up on our plates and that we do more to support what is a key growth sector of our economy to increase exports and to protect and grow local jobs. The industry makes a contribution to tackling hunger and obesity in Scotland. Given that there is a Young’s and Macrae factory in my constituency, I of course associate myself with any encouragement to get folk to eat more fish.

I support the Government’s efforts to end multibuy promotions of food that has little or no nutritional value, but I want to ensure that all the proposals in the Government’s healthy eating action plan are evidence based and do not disproportionately impact on Scottish small and medium-sized enterprises. Paterson Arran, which is based in my constituency and which was recently bought by Burton’s Biscuit Company, produces the number 1 and best-tasting shortbread in the United Kingdom. It is an innovative and ethical company. It relies on promotions in supermarkets and free samples to boost sales of shortbread, particularly at certain times of the year, with hogmanay and Christmas being the most obvious examples.

I do not pretend that shortbread is anything other than a treat, but it is 17 per cent sugar, whereas a KitKat is 52 per cent sugar. My concern is that the large confectionery companies will continue to advertise—given that regulation on that is reserved—and that, with our powers, we may inadvertently affect small Scotland-based companies. I know that Mr Ewing is aware of the issue. He has been generous with his time and has visited Paterson Arran, and the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing has been kind enough to meet me to discuss the matter further.

I support the desire to enshrine the right to food in Scots law, because we must end hunger in 21st century Scotland. I accept that it is comparatively easy to legislate and that the challenge is putting legislation into practice to ensure that weans in Scotland do not go hungry.

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

I thank Alasdair Allan for bringing the debate to the chamber. I am delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate one of Scotland’s most important and iconic industries. In my constituency of Galloway and West Dumfries, the food and drink sector is vital to our rural economy. We have a host of fantastic companies developing new and exciting products.

In line with the Scottish Government’s ambition 2030 strategy for the industry, Dumfries and Galloway Council has a programme, which is ably managed by Lorna Young, to ensure that targets are met. The industry is currently worth £1.2 billion to the region and employs more than 9,000 people. The sector now comprises a quarter of private sector activity in the local economy, which is up from a fifth just five years ago. In terms of gross value added, the sector represents £60,000 per head of population, which is well above the local average of £40,000.

It is a pity that I have only four minutes to speak, because there are so many wonderful individuals and businesses doing so much in my constituency. Earlier today, I was alongside the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall as they officially opened the new visitor centre at the Bladnoch distillery, which I am sure you will know well, Presiding Officer. Australian businessman David Prior purchased Bladnoch distillery in 2015 with a vision to restore it to its former glory. Shortly after his significant investment, the distillery resumed production and launched its award-winning range of Bladnoch single malts and Pure Scot blended whiskies. In 2017, Bladnoch celebrated its 200th anniversary, making it the oldest privately owned Scotch distillery. I should not forget the Crafty distillery, which is just along the road and which produces the now famous Hills & Harbour gin.

I am thoroughly looking forward to attending this year’s Stranraer oyster festival, at which we will be joined by the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon. The festival is now in its third year and is getting bigger all the time. It is a fantastic event that brings together the community and showcases one of our finest coastal products. If members have time, I certainly recommend popping down. The Kirkcudbright food festival is coming up next month and we had the Wigtown food festival in July. When we add in a Dumfries farmers market at the railway station every month, we really are spoiled for choice when it comes to getting fine local produce.

On the 20th anniversary of Food and Drink Federation Scotland, I was pleased to hear that it is offering 20 opportunities in the industry for youngsters. One is at Sheena Horner’s Galloway Chillies, a small, thriving business in my region. The programme has allowed her to take on a youngster for work experience, which is a fantastic opportunity to learn about how to grow chillies in Scotland, assist in building two greenhouses for the 2020 season and share ideas with partners and participants in the Dumfries and Galloway food and drink forum. As we have heard before in this place, the region faces huge challenges in keeping our young people, so opportunities like that should be explored more as we look for incentives to keep them there.

There is so much untapped potential to grow our food and drink industry. Dumfries and Galloway is home to almost half of Scotland’s dairy herd, and we have almost a quarter of the country’s cattle. I am almost certain to miss out some of our iconic products, but I must mention the world-famous Castle MacLellan’s pâté, Marrburry’s smoked salmon, Sulwarth Brewery’s award-winning Galloway Gold lager and Galloway Lodge preserves. Today, I met up with the dairy company that makes Cream o’ Galloway ice cream and now has award-winning ethical cheeses. New businesses include Five Kingdoms brewery in the stunning Isle of Whithorn and Galloway Mead, which hopes to bring back traditional mead to south-west Scotland. I should also mention Kirkcudbright—famous for its scallop fleet—and high-quality beef from our Galloways, belted and otherwise, which are growing in stature and popularity.

Potential to expand the sector is reckoned to be worth £2.5 billion in Dumfries and Galloway, so this is an exciting time for our businesses. With the south-west 300 driving route, people can take in some of the most beautiful countryside in Scotland, combined with the best food that the country has to offer and washed down by a fine dram. I look forward to seeing more of my fellow members enjoying Galloway hospitality and I will be more than happy to point them in the right direction.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You have given us enough places to go to. I call Stewart Stevenson, to be followed by Colin Smyth.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I congratulate Alasdair Allan on securing the debate. I add to his litany of constituency interests, as I first had spoots at Northton. They were harvested within a mile of where I was eating them—that is cutting down food miles.

My constituency also has unusual and interesting things in it; it is where extra virgin rapeseed oil came to the fore, because of one of the farmers in my area.

I, too, offer congratulations on the 10th anniversary of Scottish food and drink fortnight. Of course, Scotland has wonderful seafood, Scotch whisky and much more. My constituency has multiple fishing ports and farms, and it even has four whisky distilleries: Knockdhu, Inchgower, Glenglassaugh and Macduff, which provide high-quality products and high-quality jobs.

Scotland has four of the largest fishing ports in the UK, and we account for almost all of the UK’s aquaculture production. Nearly 5,000 people work on Scotland-registered fishing vessels and 8,000 work in seafood processing—in both cases, many of those jobs are in rural areas. The Scotch whisky industry employs 10,000 people in Scotland, including 7,000 people in rural areas. Those are big numbers, and continued growth could make them even bigger. The efforts of ambition 2030 stand to be recognised, because the contributions that the food and drink industries make to our economy are heading in a most positive direction. When we eat and drink their products, we are eating and drinking the most healthy food on earth.

Our food exports have increased by 111 per cent since 2007, to £1.5 billion, with salmon and seafood leading the way. Capital investment is also going up. Across Scotland, there are improved distilleries, new distilleries, refettled distilleries and new visitor attractions. Farmed salmon is up by 16 per cent and Scotch whisky has increased in value by £153 million, to more than £4 billion. Its export value has grown by 7.8 per cent, with 40 bottles of whisky exported every second—that will be 9,600 bottles during this speech.

Our food and drink sector deserves to be toasted and celebrated. Scottish food and drink fortnight is an ideal expression of that, and I encourage the public to join in. I listened with interest to what Finlay Carson said. He mentioned the Stranraer oyster festival, which I was going to cite as an example of what is done in the south. The spirit of Speyside festival, in the north, is among the events that take place in my area.

It is important that we continue to support local food and drink. The sector is a massive success story for Scotland. It is diverse and omnipresent, and I am looking forward to tucking into some Scottish products later this evening, to augment the Scotland-sourced tacos that I had at lunch time.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

I thank Alasdair Allan for lodging his motion, which has allowed this evening’s debate to take place. He has provided members with the opportunity not only to celebrate Scotland’s world-renowned food and drink sector but to do our annual food and drink fortnight sales pitch for our constituencies and regions. I fully intend to do just that, and I follow Finlay Carson—and, no doubt, precede Emma Harper—in highlighting the thriving food and drink sector in my home region of Dumfries and Galloway, where our farmers produce more than 40 per cent of Scotland’s dairy and which boasts a fantastic range of wonderful artisan products.

As a result of the importance and potential of the sector, the local Labour-led council has committed to the development of a regional food and drink strategy that aims to double the value of the region’s industry to £2.5 billion by 2030. That is an ambitious target, but it is one that the region is more than capable of realising. I recall launching, as a local councillor, the Dumfries and Galloway food trail, which invites people to eat and drink their way around the natural larder of the region, whose produce is produced by some of the most passionate people in the business. I am talking about companies such as Cream o’ Galloway, which is near the food town of Castle Douglas—David and Wilma Finlay are leading the way in ethical farming by proving that there is an alternative to the export of live calves and producing some of the most amazing ice cream and cheese along the way—and Loch Arthur, to which I, as the chair of Dumfries and Galloway’s Fairtrade steering group, had the privilege of awarding Fairtrade flagship employer status, thereby helping to deliver Fairtrade status to the region.

The food trail takes people behind the scenes of producers including Annandale distillery, which, after three years, is bottling its first malt whiskies—the peated Man o’ Sword and the unpeated Man o’ Words—which are named after Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns. I can personally vouch for the remarkable quality of both, despite their young age. It is fitting that the co-owners of the distillery, David Thomson and his wife, Teresa Church, have now taken ownership of one of Burns’s favourite haunts, the 400-year-old Globe Inn, in Dumfries. Recently, our craft whisky distilleries have been joined by Ninefold, near Lockerbie, which does small-batch rum distilling, and wonderful gin distilleries such as Oro, in Dalton, Crafty Distillery, in Newton Stewart, and Solway Spirits, near Annan.

We have exciting new businesses in the soft drinks sector, too. Scotland’s youngest chief executive, nine-year-old Molly Rose McLean of Molly Rose Lemonade, in Gretna Green, launched the second flavour in her growing range just a few days ago.

The region also boasts some of the busiest farmers and community markets, from Wigtown and Kirkcudbright, in the west, to Dumfries, Moffat, Lockerbie and Langholm, in the east. We also have some of the best food festivals and celebrations in the country, including the Stranraer oyster festival, which I am proud to plug—I suspect that I will be one of four members who will do so during the debate. It celebrates not only Loch Ryan’s world-class oysters but the area’s culture and heritage.

With outstanding restaurants, cafes, guest houses and hotels, Dumfries and Galloway is the place to do business when it comes to food and drink, and it is playing its part in Scotland’s food and drink success story. However, we are not without our major challenges. The region’s food and drink sector—along with the rest of Scotland—faces the uncertainties of Brexit, which threatens our tariff-free access to markets as well as access to workers. In addition, the threat to geographical indication status looms over products such as Scotch whisky, our nation’s biggest food and drink export. That industry is worth £4.7 billion a year. Because the economic importance of our food and drink sector is enormous, so, too, is the potentially damaging impact of Brexit.

The importance of the food and drink sector goes beyond its crucial economic importance. It impacts on our health, our environment, our record on animal welfare and our fight for equality. The lack of adequate access to food for far too many people exposes many inequalities in Scotland today. Sadly, although our food and drink sector has grown, so, too, has the scandal of food poverty. It is absolutely right that we celebrate the success of Scotland’s food and drink, but we also need to rethink how we approach access to quality, nutritious food in this country.

We need to recognise that access to food is a fundamental human right. Although I am glad that this year’s programme for government committed to introducing a good food nation bill, there is still a lack of clarity about what the bill will contain. We urgently need bold, comprehensive legislation that puts tackling food poverty at its heart and that includes a statutory right to food. I hope that the Government will use this debate to commit to that this evening.

In a nation that provides so much outstanding food and drink, of which we are all proud, it is to our shame that, tonight, there will still be many children in Scotland who will go to bed hungry. That is a scandal that we must end.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

I am delighted to be taking part in this important debate. As others have done, I congratulate my colleague Alasdair Allan on securing the debate.

Scottish food and drink fortnight gives all MSPs the opportunity to highlight some of the marvellous food and drink companies in our constituencies and regions. Presiding Officer, you have guessed it: I am biased when it comes to Scottish food and drink, because I am of the view that Stirling produces some of the best in the country.

The Stirling area is home to two remarkable whisky distilleries, in the shape of Deanston and Glengoyne. Furthermore, the emergence of new gin distilleries, including that which makes McQueen gin, which is based near Callander, and that of Stirling Gin Ltd, which is based in Stirling’s old town, shows that gin is certainly not lagging behind.

Of course, rural Stirling is home to many farms, and is a major producer of high quality Scotch beef, lamb and milk. In Scotbeef Ltd, which is located in Bridge of Allan, we have one of the UK’s largest privately owned fresh meat companies, whose passion is to produce the highest quality innovative meat products for the UK retail market. Also in Bridge of Allan, we have Graham’s The Family Dairy Ltd, which this year celebrates its 80th anniversary. Graham’s is Scotland’s leading food brand, and produces very high quality dairy products. I acknowledge that both those companies are in the constituency of my colleague Keith Brown, but I am always trying to nick stuff off Keith, so there is no change there.

I always consider Scottish food and drink fortnight to be a positive opportunity to celebrate our marvellous produce, which has unbeatable provenance. However, in this year, of all years, I am afraid that it must also come with a serious warning. The elephant in the chamber is a no-deal Brexit, which simply cannot be ignored. If the current Prime Minister succeeds in taking the whole UK out of the European Union with no deal, that will leave the UK having to trade on World Trade Organization terms. In that circumstance, the challenges for our food and drink industry will be stark.

For many producers, the situation will, potentially, be impossible. Without a trade deal being in place between the UK and the EU, the UK will be subject to export tariffs when it trades with other countries—including Ireland—just as any other third country that does not have a trade deal with the EU is. That will include tariffs that could be punitive on products including beef, lamb, butter and cheese. I do not think that I need to emphasise just how serious a situation that would be for Scotland’s farmers, food producers, retailers and consumers.

I will finish with a quote from James Withers, who is the chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink. He said:

“If you take our lamb and sheep sector, a quarter goes to the European Union so you face the potential of that market effectively closing, with a huge tariff suddenly payable on lamb. Even if you could increase the consumption in the UK we wouldn’t be able to absorb that amount, so the projections we see for lamb on the UK market is a reduction in the price of around 30 per cent, which would have a disastrous effect. It would have the same kind of impact economically as foot-and-mouth in 2001.”

Make no mistake: a no-deal Brexit is a direct and specific threat to the future of Scotland’s highly successful food and drink sector. The fact that about two thirds of food exports go to the EU demonstrates just how valuable the EU market is. All the great work that has been done to ensure that food and drink exports from Scotland reached a record high of £6.3 billion last year would be hugely undermined by crashing out of the EU without a deal. That is a future that I dare not contemplate; I hope that colleagues across the chamber share that view.

Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

I declare an interest as a partner in a farming business, because we cannot have a debate on the wonderful food and drink that we enjoy in Scotland without mentioning our farmers, who help to produce the raw materials on which a lot of it depends.

I also thank Alasdair Allan for bringing the debate to the chamber, because I relish any opportunity to praise the Scottish food and drink sector. As I have often said in the chamber, the food and drink industry is one of Scotland’s biggest success stories, and food and drink fortnight is all about celebrating that.

The Food and Drink Federation Scotland has published some incredible statistics that show the importance of the industry. For example, 25 per cent of the Scottish manufacturing workforce is within the food and drink industry, which employs a staggering 45,000 people every year. It is estimated that by 2024 the industry will need to recruit another 19,000 people in order to keep up with current demand. Although we do not have figures for what the ambition 2030 strategy could do for employment, if we keep working towards it, it will have a tremendous impact.

I know that Stornoway black pudding—which was mentioned by Alasdair Allan—is top class, because I enjoy it regularly. However, I particularly want to mention some of our great north-east products. The annual north-east Scotland food and drink awards celebrate the excellence of our products; I would like to mention some of this year’s winners. Middleton of Rora Dairy Produce Ltd has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and has won two awards through its passion for creating simple and pure Scottish yoghurt on the farm in Peterhead. I saw many people enjoying samples at the Royal Highland Show, and the company’s passion for its products is clear.

Dating back to 1797, the Glen Garioch distillery in Aberdeenshire is one of the oldest whisky distilleries in Scotland, and I am lucky enough to have it in my region. Like many other people around the world, I find that there is nothing finer than a dram. Glen Garioch distillery has regularly received awards for the development and innovation of its products in recent years.

The list goes on: there is Mackie’s of Scotland’s ice cream, oatcakes from Kindness Bakers Ltd in New Deer, Mackintosh of Glendaveny Ltd’s rapeseed oil, and Farmlay Eggs. I must declare an interest because my brother, Robert, and his family run the Farmlay Eggs business. Those are just a few of the recognised success stories from 2019. It is clear that the north-east is the place to be for great Scottish food and drink.

There is no doubt that Scotland’s food and drink has been a great success story over the past 10 years. However, to keep that momentum going and to reach £30 billion by 2030, some key things need to happen. More young people need to regard farming, fishing and the food and drink industry as career choices. The jobs must be sustainable and well paid, based on our primary industries being more profitable than they are now.

In addition, much fairer shares of the profits and risks must be spread along the food chain. Too often, we see all sectors of the chain extracting their costs and an element of profit, which leaves the primary producer with a price which means that he is producing at a loss. That business model must change, and we must do that while we address our environmental footprint and move towards a carbon-neutral industry. No pressure.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Due to the number of members who still wish to speak in the debate, I am minded to accept a motion without notice, under rule 8.14.3, to extend the debate by up to 30 minutes. I invite Alasdair Allan to move such a motion.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 8.14.3, the debate be extended by up to 30 minutes.—[

Alasdair Allan


Motion agreed to.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this evening’s important debate, and I congratulate my colleague Alasdair Allan on securing it.

Food and drink fortnight, which is organised by Scotland Food & Drink, is an excellent opportunity to showcase the best of Scottish produce—fae ferm tae fork. Scotland’s food and drink sector is world renowned for its provenance, its outstanding quality and its amazing diversity of delicious flavours. It is worth more than £14 billion to our economy and employs 115,000—and then some—people across Scotland, and that number continues to grow.

Every corner of Scotland has its own unique brand of food and drink, and the south-west of Scotland is nae exception. In my South Scotland region, we have outstanding local produce, from Galloway-breed beef and award-winning cheeses at the Ethical Dairy—which was mentioned—to Loch Ryan oysters from Stranraer, which I, too, will be enjoying along with Minister Gougeon at the third Stranraer oyster festival this weekend. We have huge companies, such as those that produce Seriously Strong Cheddar and Rowan Glen, and Arla Foods; one-woman companies such as Treats, Darling?; and even forward thinkers such as the Station House cookery school in Kirkcudbright, which does a lot of work with families and local producers.

We have many outstanding food and farm festivals, agricultural shows and farmers markets in the south-west that showcase outstanding local food and drink that are bursting with flavour and creativity.

I give a shout out to Graham Nichol and Niomi Brough, who are just two of the hard-working people behind the Dumfries and Kirkcudbright food festivals. Graham was the omelette-making champion in Dumfries and Galloway until this summer. I defeated him and took his crown, which I now have to defend on his ain turf.

Members might be surprised to learn that, in south-west Scotland, Garrocher tea garden is growing and blending tea, Professor Pods is growing chillies for his sauces, and we have a wide range of award-winning dairy produce, from amazing ice cream to specialist cheeses and yoghurt. We must not forget the world-famous Ayrshire tatties, which now have protected geographical indication status. We have local venison, a wide variety of lamb, hogget and mutton, and the Little Bakery, which won the prestigious world’s best Scotch pie award this year.

South-west Scotland also has the award-winning Sulwath brewery in Castle Douglas, which has been mentioned, and outstanding gin distillers, such as the Crafty distillery in Newton Stewart. I believe that I had a taste of Hills & Harbour gin with Mike Russell at an event in Parliament. We also have, of course, the newly refurbished and reopened Bladnoch distillery, whose reopening was described really well by Finlay Carson. I visited it on one of its other official opening days. Ninefold distillery, which is a new kid on the block, makes Dumfries and Galloway’s first rum. Galloway really does have it all.

Since 2008, we have seen Scots exports increase by 56 per cent. They reached over £7 billion last year, and our manufacturing growth rate for food and drink is twice that of the UK.

Supporting the workforce is key to unlocking the £30 billion potential of the sector—that is the Scottish Government’s target. Our farmers, fishers, growers, pickers and all those who work in our agricultural sector need to be supported.

I spent the summer recess visiting farms, attending agricultural events and food and drink events, and speaking to people on the front line. As colleagues have mentioned in the chamber, south-west Scotland has 48 per cent of Scotland’s dairy farms. I have talked about that previously. Many of their employees are EU citizens who have chosen to live and work in, and be essential contributing members of, our communities. South-west Scotland is one of the top food-producing areas, and those EU workers are understandably concerned about the UK Government’s actions towards EU workers.

In conclusion, I ask the cabinet secretary for assurances that he and the Scottish Government will continue to do all that they can to protect the sector and its hard-working people from the potential damage of a no-deal Brexit. I welcome food and drink fortnight and put on the record my thanks to all those in the sector and those who come to Scotland and choose to work in it.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

I, too, thank Alasdair Allan for the opportunity to debate Scotland’s food and drink.

I was very pleased to see a renewed emphasis on food in last week’s programme for government, including the commitment to finally bring forward a good food nation bill. Members may recall that it was in the debate on Scotland’s food and drink fortnight this time last year that Parliament succeeded in getting that bill back on the Government’s agenda. I am sure that we are all looking forward to scrutinising that bill when it has been introduced.

The good food nation paper from 2014 is a genuinely good piece of strategy work. It strikes the right balance between celebrating Scotland’s unique larder and our strong export sector, and identifying the big challenges that exist for further action. It spelled out the challenges of having, for example, some of the highest levels of diet-related poor health in the world; an urgent need to tackle climate emissions; a lack of resilience and competition in the food supply chain; and deep-seated attitudes to food, which lead to poor habits and low expectations.

Unfortunately, we have made little progress on those areas in the past five years. Perhaps worse than that, we have stopped discussing our successes and failures together and passed off the food challenges that we face to other portfolios, such as health and education. That is why we urgently need cross-portfolio legislation. I hope that that will come through in the good food nation bill.

There are solutions from my region that I would like to celebrate. This week, I visited the heat project in Blairgowrie, which has established a food hub and offers online ordering and collection of local food. Later this month, I will be helping to launch a similar scheme by the hub G63 in Drymen, which joins other hubs in Stirling and St Andrews that bring consumers and producers together.

Those projects are direct, community-led responses to the declining food offer on our high street, and a lack of choice and access in many of our rural communities. Many of those projects have received funding from the climate challenge fund, which is very welcome. Given the climate emergency, we should be scaling the fund up, rather than down, in order to do more work on food.

It is with some irony that the dire standard of food at Blairgowrie high school, which was exposed in The Courier today, shows the urgent need to get quality local produce into public kitchens as well. The excellent food for life programme, which engages young people in menu design, local production and wider food education work, has been very successful. Perth and Kinross Council should learn from the success of Stirling Council in working with that programme, because it has delivered quality meals that are popular with young people, within the council’s tight budget.

We should also pay tribute to projects and volunteers who are working on the front line of food poverty, such as The Gate in Alloa and Kirkcaldy food banks. I had incredibly moving visits to both projects, when I spoke to both the users and the volunteers who work so hard. I therefore remain uncomfortable celebrating record turnovers and export figures for Scottish food when families are still going to bed hungry every night.

A huge effort is under way to provide emergency food in Scotland. Last year, the charity FareShare distributed more than 1,900 tonnes of food to food banks, community kitchens, lunch clubs and other local charities. That is enough food for £4.5 million-worth of meals. We should bear in mind that that vast tonnage is actually just some of the spare food from our supermarkets and the wider supply chain. There is clearly enough food in Scotland at the moment for everybody, but access and affordability are the real crises. That is why the importance of a right to food is central and should be in the good food nation bill.

In welcoming food and drink fortnight, we must also square up to those considerable challenges, join up action between portfolios and make our food system work for the health and wellbeing of everyone. I look forward to the publication of the good food nation bill.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Mr Ruskell’s speech drifted on to other issues, but I am fairly flexible when members are speaking to motions in members’ business debates.

Photo of Gordon MacDonald Gordon MacDonald Scottish National Party

I thank Alasdair Allan for lodging the motion, which celebrates the many successes of our food and drink industries.

In Edinburgh Pentlands, many of my constituents are employed by Burton’s Biscuit Company, which has been manufacturing biscuits in Edinburgh since 1934. Burton’s was recognised in an online survey as the seventh-best biscuit brand in the world, and in recent years it was awarded the export success of the year award by the Food and Drink Federation. I am also lucky to have the Edinburgh Beer Factory Ltd in my constituency, which won two world beer awards in 2018, making it the highest-performing UK brewery at the world beer awards.

Thanks to companies such as Burton’s and the Edinburgh Beer Factory, the food and drinks industries are now worth a record £15 billion to the Scottish economy, and the sector is well on its way to doubling in value by 2030, to £30 billion.

Fiona Richmond, the head of regional food at Scotland Food and Drink, has said that

Scottish food and drink is the envy of producers from around the world”.

She is right. Even when we look closer to home, the reputation of Scottish produce is such that demand for it is increasing, with 82 per cent of Scottish consumers thinking that we produce the best whisky, 76 per cent thinking that we produce the best beef and 75 per cent thinking that we produce the best salmon. Well over half of UK consumers agree with them.

As an Edinburgh MSP and the co-convener of the cross-party group on Scotch whisky, it comes as no surprise to me that this year’s Scottish food and drink fortnight was launched at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, given the importance of whisky to the economy. The “Scotch Whisky Economic Impact Report 2018” showed that the whisky industry is now supporting more than

“42,000 jobs across the UK. This includes 10,500 people directly in Scotland, and 7,000 in rural communities.”

The sector’s contribution to the UK economy has grown by 10 per cent since 2016 to £6.3 billion, as a result of continued export success. Scotland’s national drink now generates two thirds of all the spirits gross value added in the UK. That success comes despite the industry in the UK continuing to pay the fourth-highest duty rates in the EU and one of the highest duties in the world, compared with other spirit-producing nations.

As we mark 10 years of the Scottish food and drink fortnight and showcase Scottish producers and consumers throughout the country, it would be remiss of me, as convener of the cross-party group on independent convenience stores, not to mention the vital role that retailers—in particular, independent retailers—play. For the past two years, convenience store owners in Scotland have benefited from £550,000 of Scottish Government grant funding to build their capacity to develop a food-to-go offering for customers. The grant programme is administered by the Scottish Grocers Federation. I am pleased to say that a condition for all applicants to the programme is that they must show a commitment to locally sourced Scottish produce.

So far, more than 120 stores around Scotland, including stores in rural and island communities, have benefited from the programme. The funding has enabled and encouraged convenience stores to develop new business with Scottish food and drink businesses, and has allowed stores to take advantage of the growing consumer demand for Scottish produce.

Scottish food and drink is one of Scotland’s best performing industries. We are well on our way to achieving the target of being home to a sector that is worth £30 billion, which is why we must support the sector by buying local and trusting Scottish.

Photo of Gail Ross Gail Ross Scottish National Party

I thank my colleague, Alasdair Allan, for bringing the debate to the chamber, which allows us to highlight the importance of the food and drink sector to Scotland, and to champion some of the great success stories in our constituencies. I will do that without apology.

With local food and drink now being worth an estimated £1.3 billion, this is one of our most valued sectors.

I will get the B word out of the way right at the start of my speech. With the uncertainties that Brexit is bringing, we know that there will be a great need for political will to be shown in the future to continue to support Scottish food and drink producers. The last thing that we need is another business—such as Isle of Skye Chocolate in Kate Forbes’s constituency—to be forced to close as a direct result of complications that have arisen due to the mess of leaving the European Union. However, I want tonight’s debate to be a positive one, so I will move on.

My hometown of Wick is home to the world’s best whisky. That is not only my opinion—it is the accolade that was bestowed on Old Pulteney’s 21-year-old single malt by Jim Murray’s respected “Whisky Bible” in 2012. It was only the second time that a Scottish distillery had won that coveted award and only the third time for a single malt.

In other whisky-related news, Brora distillery is to reopen and start production again, due to a multimillion pound investment by Diageo. Production of Brora whisky ceased in 1983, and bottles of it now change hands for thousands of pounds. Taken from the water that produced the famous gold rush in Sutherland, it is a much sought-after dram, and its re-emergence has sparked interest among whisky lovers all over the world—especially those abroad who can boast bloodlines that lead back to the terrible clearances in that part of Scotland.

Should members’ travels take them to Ullapool, a visit to the Seafood Shack is essential. I took the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon, there in the summer, and she was very impressed—we talked about it again just this week. The Seafood Shack has a simple menu, based on the fresh seafood that comes ashore that day. I can thoroughly recommend the garlic crab claws and the monkfish or haddock wrap.

If members are looking for something a bit different, Shore the Scottish Seaweed Company Ltd produces a nutritious snack from local seaweed, which is sustainably harvested, by hand, on the Caithness shores.

Bogrow farm in Ross-shire, which is a reasonably new producer, is already producing fantastic quality meat and vegetables for the local market. Thanks to LEADER funding, this year it has expanded the business to develop a charcuterie and expand its butchery to meet the demand for locally produced quality products. That is just one example of a food and drink producer that, thanks to European funding, has been able to expand and develop.

Roaring Red Stag Ltd, which I visited in the summer, is also developing into a thriving business. It produces quality venison for the local and national market. However, the owners have pointed out that, due to their remote rural location, it is a challenge to find support with routes to market and development of their business. I will speak to James Withers about that tonight.

In the time that I have left, there are too many quality producers to mention. Loch Duart salmon, Scrabster Seafoods Ltd, Rock Rose gin, Mey Selections, Caithness Chocolate, the Wolfburn distillery, Highland Fine Cheeses, Glenmorangie distillery—that list is by no means exhaustive. There is a plethora of distilleries, breweries, cafes, restaurants, farmers, crofters, bakers, confectioners and producers in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.

I offer my best wishes to Dornoch Distillery Company, Scottish Salmon Company, Dunnet Bay Distillers, Highland Charcuterie and Smoke House Ltd, Cullisse Partners, Stacks Bistro, Gille Brighde restaurant, Greens restaurant and Kylesku Hotel for the Highland and Islands food and drink awards in November. Good luck to all of them.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I do not know whether any members have missed anything in their constituencies. They have had a good try at naming everything.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I thank all members for contributing to the debate. Just about every member mentioned the distilleries in their constituencies, so I join the club and pay tribute to Tomatin, Royal Brackla and a new distillery that Gordon and MacPhail plan to open in Grantown-on-Spey, which will be extremely welcome.

I thank Alasdair Allan for securing the debate and for his reference to so many of the outstanding food and drink products in his constituency. He mentioned the Isle of Harris distillery, from where I purchased a barrel of whisky for my daughter for when she turns 18. Of course, that was for the purposes of her education. We took her to see the barrel, which has her name enshrined on it. She burst into tears, because she did not like the smell, and said, “Dad, I want you to sell it for £20.” I decided not to enter into a transaction on that basis.

To be serious, today’s debate is about celebrating success. All members have paid tribute well to the huge contribution that food and drink make in their constituencies. They mentioned a long list of companies, large and small, that contribute to the overall success of the industry.

We have an outstanding natural larder. We are the best place in the world for growing beef and lamb. The climate is exactly right, the animals are grass fed and the industry is environmentally sustainable. As Peter Chapman knows, at a time when farmers are subject to somewhat unfair attacks, that message is increasingly getting across.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I will link the cabinet secretary’s comments about barley, the farmers’ contribution and whisky. Given his constituency interests, he will agree that Speyside is the home of Scotch whisky. Will he join me in paying tribute to James Campbell, who is the chairman of the Spirit of Speyside whisky festival and a keeper of the quaich. Over many years, along with his team, he has made a success of that festival, as have others before him. I also pay tribute to him for helping to create and make a huge success of the more recent Distilled event in Moray Speyside, at which distillers of whisky and gin and other producers are brought under the same roof at Elgin town hall. That has become a huge success for locals and visitors alike. Will the cabinet secretary recognise the enormous contribution that James Campbell has made?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Ministers cannot take part in debates, so that is a technique for a lengthy intervention. Because of that, the cabinet secretary’s time will be extended.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

That is the politician’s equivalent of an illicit still. I pay tribute to James Campbell and his amazing achievements. He is a member of the Keepers of the Quaich. My mother, Winnie Ewing, is a member of that illustrious and select band of people. She once remarked that their dinners were the best that one could conceivably get.

I pay tribute to everyone who works in the sector, as have many others including Emma Harper and Angela Constance. They are absolutely right that we need those people and that everybody is welcome in Scotland, wherever they come from—whichever European country. It is important that we get that message out.

This morning, I attended a food resilience committee meeting along with James Withers, who is in the gallery, and representatives of the whole panoply. We had a discussion about preparing for a no-deal Brexit—not a political discussion but a practical one—and it is extremely important that we do that. I pay tribute to the work that James and his colleagues have done and to the Food and Drink Federation Scotland, whose reception to celebrate its 20th anniversary I hope and expect we will all attend shortly. It is doing a fantastic job in representing the sector in Scotland. As Dr Allan said, 10 years ago it was not receiving the airtime and promotion that it now receives.

Members referred to the good food nation bill, which we announced in the programme for government, and I am pleased that they welcome it.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I had better concentrate on the job in hand.

We will shortly be publishing the result of the consultation. There were more than 1,300 responses, so it has been a thorough piece of work and I am pleased to reassure members in that regard.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

No, I will not.

The success of the industry is well documented. Reference has been made to the record turnover of nearly £15 billion and the record exports of £6.3 billion, and retail sales of food and drink brands are at record levels. That is all as a result of tremendous hard work and close relations between Government, industry, third-party groups and communities. I want that to continue and, as many members have said, at the heart of that are our iconic protected food names—Scotch beef, Scotch lamb, Scotch farmed salmon and Stornoway black pudding. Those products embody our story, provenance, quality and heritage and they are enjoyed by people all over the world. I was pleased that Angela Constance mentioned the haggis that is cooked and sold in the canteen. It is delicious and it is my favourite canteen meal—I hope that Angela Constance will relay that to her constituents.

Members have kindly referred to the programme for government, which outlines about 20 commitments in all including the creation of a new food and drink academy to support businesses with high growth potential, the development of a new e-commerce platform so that companies can showcase and sell products on international markets, the development of a food and drink environmental plan and exploration of options to maximise the potential for the Scottish brand. More details on those commitments will emerge over the coming months.

I also acknowledge that, as Emma Harper said, small businesses play a vital role. There is a really exciting emerging development of innovative, active, vigorous, entrepreneurial small businesses in the food and drink sector and it is terrific to see those companies come forward. Mr Carson mentioned some and Gordon MacDonald mentioned the contribution that the Scottish Grocers Federation has made with its excellent food to go programme. We are always looking to see how we can expand on that and I spoke to John Lee about that just the other day.

I would like to mention some parts of Scotland that have not been mentioned. Arran, for example, is increasingly renowned as having a niche and a premium for quality brands, and I was delighted to sample some of the Arran cheeses today. I asked the young lady who offered them whether Alastair Dobson—Mr Arran—was present as well, and she said, “That’s my dad, actually, but I won’t tell him that you called him Mr Arran because it would make his head even larger.”

I pay tribute to all members for their contributions and, above all, to all the farmers, crofters, people who work in our catering sector—chefs and those working in hotels and restaurants—and everyone else who works in the food and drink sector. They play their part and contribute to the success and sustainable growth of a great industry that, perhaps more than any other, is associated with Scotland.

Meeting closed at 18:04.