Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

– in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd March 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-03704, in the name of Mairi Gougeon, on the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill. I invite members who wish to participate to press their request-to-speak button or to place an R in the chat function now or as soon as possible.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

Scotland began its journey to becoming a good food nation in 2014 with the publication of our national food and drink policy, which first set down the Government’s ambition to turn Scotland into a country where people from every walk of life take pride and pleasure in and benefit from the food that they produce, buy, cook, serve and eat each day.

From 2015 to 2017, the Scottish food commission, which was made up of 16 members, considered how to achieve that ambition. Its interim and final reports helped to set out the steps that led to the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill. I thank all those members and all the people and organisations that responded to earlier Government consultations and engagement. I particularly thank my predecessors Richard Lochhead and Fergus Ewing for guiding the work and enabling us to reach today’s milestone.

In a good food nation, everyone in Scotland has access to and the means to afford the healthy and nutritious food that they need, and diet-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes are in decline. That vision sees the people of Scotland taking a keen interest in their food, knowing what constitutes good food, valuing it and seeking it out whenever they can. The environmental impact of food consumption is managed for the benefit of everyone in Scotland. Our vision sees food producers and companies continuing to be a thriving feature of the economy and sees them as places where people want to work.

Over the past seven years, we have moved from wanting to become a good food nation to being a good food nation, through a range of activities relating to health, knowledge, the environment, the economy and social justice. Examples include supporting the roll-out of the Soil Association’s food for life programme.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

The minister just said that Scotland has moved to being a good food nation, but how does that equate with the fact that Scotland is the second-most obese country in the world, after the USA, and that we are the unhealthiest nation in Europe? We have not moved forward at all, have we?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

We certainly have moved forward but, as I will set out, the bill will provide a framework to underpin the work that we are doing and which we will undertake in the future. As with a lot of other things, we know that there is still a long way to go and that there are challenges that we need to get to grips with and tackle.

Before the intervention, I mentioned examples of work that we have done to become a good food nation.

As I said, we have supported the role of the Soil Association’s food for life programme, which ensures that more local food finds its way on to school dinner plates and that children eat more healthy and nutritious food. We provide grants to people who grow their own food in community gardens, which provide a healthy source of food locally and a focus for community events and education.

We continue to tackle the suffering that is caused by food insecurity. This financial year, we have provided around £2.5 billion to low-income households, including £56 million for free school meal alternatives during school holidays, £70 million in flexible local responses to food and financial insecurity, and more than £100 million for the third sector.

We are also working with the private sector. The Scottish Government and the food industry work together through Scotland Food & Drink, which is a unique partnership that facilitates our working side by side. We have supported industry to reformulate high-calorie foods and drinks in order to improve the nation’s health, to create regional food ambassadors and to resource regional food groups and events. Those and numerous other initiatives can be found in the latest update of our good food nation programme of measures, which is published on the Scottish Government’s website. The programme will now be underpinned by the measures in the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill, which will enable us to build momentum as we improve people’s lives through the food that they grow, buy and eat.

With the bill, we are taking the next steps on the good food nation journey. It will underpin the good work that we are already doing in law and act as the foundation on which we build our good food nation. I thank the members of the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee for their report and their work in gathering evidence on the bill at stage 1. I will cover some of their conclusions and recommendations in the debate, but I will also provide a full response to the report before stage 2.

I also thank everyone who responded to the call for evidence—they did so passionately and with a wealth of knowledge of the food system.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

The committee expected a proper response to the report at stage 1, and we were disappointed that we did not get it. We kept our side of the bargain by keeping to the Scottish Government’s timetable, but we got scant response. That is disappointing.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I hope that the member appreciates that it is only fair that I give the report and all the work that has gone into it full and due consideration, which I am undertaking. As I just said, I will be issuing my response to the committee prior to stage 2.

All the views and ideas have been and are being considered carefully during the bill process. At the heart of the bill is the requirement on the Scottish Government and key public authorities to draft, consult on, publish and keep under review good food nation plans. The scope of those plans is intended to be broad and ambitious. Through the good food nation plan, the Government will be obliged to set out clearly for the public the outcomes that we aim to achieve in food-related issues, the policies that we intend to put in place and, critically, the metrics on which our progress can be measured.

Scottish ministers will also be obliged to consider how the good food nation plan relates to specific functions that they carry out, which will further enhance our joined-up approach to food policy. The bill creates similar obligations on local authorities and health boards, which will lead to greater coherence of food policy at national and local levels.

I want the good food nation plans to really deliver for our nation’s social and economic wellbeing, education, the environment, people’s health and economic development. For that reason, I completely agree with the RAINE Committee’s view that consultation on our good food nation plans must be as wide, inclusive and participatory as possible. It is only through involving others, particularly those whose voices are too easy to ignore and who can benefit the most from change, that we will achieve important changes to our food system and food culture.

One of the key issues that was raised and debated during stage 1 concerned the right to food and how best to incorporate that into law. We are committed to doing that, and in the co-operation agreement with the Scottish Greens, we set out not only the intention but how we will achieve it. The Scottish Government intends to bring together a raft of rights under upcoming human rights legislation. That legislation will incorporate into Scots law the right to an adequate standard of living, which includes the right to adequate food. I am pleased that the committee supports that approach.

A recurring theme in written and oral evidence was the need for scrutiny throughout the development of the good food nation plans. I agree. I acknowledge the committee’s call in its stage 1 report for a greater role for the Scottish Parliament in scrutinising the good food nation plans and the committee’s specific recommendations on how to achieve that. As part of the next stages of the bill process, I will consider how best to enhance relevant provisions.

Another key issue was oversight, with some contributors calling for a stand-alone food commission to oversee the delivery of good food nation plans. As the committee recognises, views are mixed on the merits or otherwise of establishing a new statutory body, what its duties might be and whether new or existing organisations would be best placed to carry out such work.

As part of our shared policy programme with the Scottish Green Party, we committed to considering the need for a statutory body such as a food commission. That issue was widely deliberated on during the stage 1 process, and I am carefully considering the committee’s conclusions and recommendations on oversight.

I turn to the question of outcomes and targets. The stage 1 process gathered a wide range of opinions and views from stakeholders. Some called for the inclusion of detailed targets in the bill, others wanted to see more high-level objectives and many called for a statement of intent or some incorporation of the vision in the bill.

The Scottish Government has already set food and nutrition-related targets such as reducing food waste by 33 per cent by 2025 and aiming to halve childhood obesity by 2030. We have also taken action to reflect the need to meet such targets, such as publishing guidance on healthy eating in schools to improve the nutritional quality of school food.

I agree with the committee, which did not recommend that targets be included in the bill.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

Not at this point.

However, I note that members concluded that the Government should consider how we might better reflect our high-level objectives in the bill. I will undertake to do that.

I look forward to the debate and hearing members’ contributions. If there is one thing on which we in this chamber can all agree, it is surely the importance of food in our lives, and of having healthy, sustainably and locally produced food more available to all in Scotland, with people appreciating the role and significance of having good food and being a good food nation.

I am proud to move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Thank you very much, cabinet secretary. I advise members that we are quite tight for time, so interventions will probably have to be accommodated into speaking slots.

I call Beatrice Wishart to speak on behalf of the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee. You have around nine minutes, Ms Wishart.

Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Liberal Democrat

I am pleased to speak to the committee’s stage 1 report on the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill this afternoon, although I am not pleased that the reason that I am doing so, rather than the convener, is due to his absence from Parliament. We wish him well and a speedy recovery.

I thank everyone who was involved in the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee’s stage 1 inquiry. The committee was able to draw on a wealth of quality evidence to inform its conclusions, and members were encouraged by the passion and expertise of those advocating for change in the food system.

Before I discuss the substance of the committee’s report, I put on record my disappointment that the Government has not provided a more detailed written response to inform the debate today. I look forward to receiving a detailed response to the committee’s recommendations prior to stage 2.

The Government describes the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill as framework legislation. The bill creates a framework by placing a duty on Scottish ministers and certain relevant authorities—local authorities and health boards—to produce good food nation plans. The plans are the primary vehicle for driving forward the objectives, indicators and policies that the Government and those relevant authorities want to employ in pursuit of their ambition for Scotland to become a good food nation.

The Government has, since 2009, published a range of position papers setting out its ambitions for a good food nation. The expectation of many stakeholders was that the bill would consolidate the existing strands of policy and set out a clear vision for the Scottish food system. Around two thirds of respondents to the committee’s call for views felt that the bill should be clearer on its purpose and outcomes, and many stakeholders raised serious concerns about a lack of ambition for the legislation.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission, for example, argued:

“It is disappointing that the Bill is not framed in terms of the ambition to achieve a just transition to a fair, healthy and sustainable food system, and does not require that food plans set out the steps that will be taken to eradicate hunger and progressively realise the rights to food, health, equality, and a healthy environment.”

When the committee raised the lack of ambition in the bill with the cabinet secretary, she said that she was aware of such concerns but emphasised that it was the plans that should set out the ambition, due to the framework nature of the legislation. Although the committee was, to some degree, reassured by those comments, we nonetheless conclude that, for the bill to be effective, the Government should clearly articulate the wider ambitions in the plan when it is published for consultation and laid before Parliament.

In helping to drive the wider ambition, the committee explored whether targets or more detailed outcomes should be included in the bill, and we took a lot of evidence from stakeholders on that. Many thought that targets or outcomes should be included in the bill, but many disagreed. It is a complex issue, not least because different people interpret and understand targets and outcomes to mean different things. Although we agree that it would not be helpful to include numerical targets in the bill, the committee was more persuaded that the bill would benefit from some high-level objectives, reflecting the broad vision and ambitions for a good food nation. Therefore, we urge the Scottish Government to give further thought to the inclusion of high-level objectives in the bill at stage 2 and, in particular, to whether section 1(5) should be widened to include other policy outcomes.

The oversight of and accountability for the national good food nation policy and plans was a central theme in the evidence that we received. As drafted, the bill’s oversight mechanism is the requirement to lay all national plans in the Scottish Parliament and to lay a progress report every five years. We took a lot of evidence that questioned whether those provisions were sufficient. There was broad agreement across the majority of responses to the committee’s call for views that the bill should provide for an oversight function beyond the reporting and review mechanisms in sections 5 and 6. Accordingly, the committee recommends that the bill be amended at stage 2 to strengthen the oversight function.

The committee heard a range of views about what the oversight function should look like and who should be tasked with it. We heard support for the oversight function being incorporated into an existing body, as well as support for a new body being established, with a range of suggestions as to what sort of body that should be. Committee members agree that we are not in a position to make a clear recommendation on that.

We note the Scottish Government’s long-standing position that a new oversight body is not required but that it is currently considering that under the terms of the Bute house agreement. We asked the Scottish Government to update the Parliament on its thinking in advance of the stage 1 debate. We note with concern that that consideration is in its early stages, as the committee assumes that any oversight role that is deemed necessary should be provided for through the bill.

The committee notes that the bill does not provide the Parliament with a formal role in approving those plans. We recommend, therefore, that the bill be amended at stage 2 to give the Parliament a greater role, requiring Scottish Parliament approval of the plans after they have been laid to ensure that they align with stakeholder expectations and drive the transformational change that we want in the food system.

A number of stakeholders argued that the bill should either incorporate or align with a right to food. The committee wanted to understand whether the bill is the appropriate legislative vehicle for such a right or, as the First Minister has outlined under the Bute house agreement, a right to adequate food should be incorporated into wider human rights legislation. The committee was persuaded that the proposed wider human rights legislation is the best means of providing for a right to food and that it would be unhelpful to have the right singled out and excluded from the proposed human rights legislation.

Sections 2 and 8 of the bill provide for a consultation on the draft good food nation plans. The committee recognises that, if the national plan is to be effective, it must draw on the experiences of everyone using and working in the Scottish food system. We heard compelling evidence, from organisations such as the Food Train, Obesity Action Scotland and the Food Foundation, of the need for a comprehensive and wide-ranging consultation. The committee firmly believes that any consultation that is undertaken by Scottish ministers on the draft national good food nation plan must be as wide, inclusive and participatory as possible. The committee agrees with the evidence that it received that the consultation methods that are used should be tailored to each specific audience and that one size will not fit all. Therefore, we welcome the commitments that the cabinet secretary and her officials have made that the Scottish Government’s approach to the consultation will be as open, accessible and inclusive as possible.

As I have mentioned, the bill requires relevant authorities to publish a good food nation plan. That places a similar requirement on relevant authorities to those that are placed on Scottish ministers by section 1 of the bill, although there is no requirement for relevant authorities’ reports to be laid in the Scottish Parliament.

In evidence, it was clear that, although some local authorities embraced the good food nation vision some time ago, other authorities are at an earlier stage of their good food nation journey. Therefore, the committee considers it essential that those authorities have access to information and advice to support the development of their plans, and we called on the Scottish Government to set out in its response to our report how it intends to provide such information and advice.

Sections 4 and 10 of the bill provide that Scottish ministers and relevant authorities must “have regard to” their good food nation plans when exercising specified functions. Those functions are to be set out in subordinate legislation. The committee believes that sections 4 and 10 are key to the effectiveness of the plans. We agree that it is regrettable that a draft list of all the specified functions was not available to inform parliamentary scrutiny, although we welcome the cabinet secretary’s confirmation that the list will be included in the consultation on the draft national plan.

The committee homed in on one particular aspect of section 4, which was the provision for subordinate legislation setting out the specified functions to be considered by Parliament under the negative procedure. Officials told us that that procedure was chosen because the subordinate legislation would be likely to include a long list and would not meet the usual criteria for the affirmative procedure. The committee agrees that the decision about which of the Scottish ministers’ functions should be exercised with regard to good food nation plans should meet the criteria for the affirmative procedure and that Parliament should have a stronger role in scrutinising those “specified functions”. Accordingly, we recommend that any regulations made under section 4 should be subject to the affirmative procedure.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Please bring your remarks to a close, Ms Wishart.

Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Liberal Democrat

I had something to say about the financial memorandum costs.

Suffice it to say that the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill offers a real opportunity to transform Scotland’s relationship with food. If the plans are to drive that transformational culture change, they must be robust, with clear objectives, adequate resources and effective oversight and accountability mechanisms. National and localised plans must also work together coherently and must complement existing and future policy initiatives.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

The Scottish National Party is finally introducing its promised Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill, six years late, after having promised it in its 2016 and 2021 manifestos.

We are all very proud of what Scotland produces. We export £6.3 billion-worth of food and drink annually, but we must do more to promote our produce at home.

I tuned in to Radio 4’s “The Food Programme” recently to listen to a piece on the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill. It highlighted why we are here debating the legislation today. Scotland has been branded the sick man of Europe because of our diet, with people regularly eating calorie-dense, nutrient-deficient foodstuffs and 66 per cent of our adult population estimated to be obese. According to current trends, by 2035 more than 480,000 people in Scotland will be living with diabetes. It is estimated that around 6.7 per cent of men and 4.2 per cent of women are living with chronic heart disease. We must urgently reverse those trends.

It is therefore important that the bill has a purpose clause setting out the Government’s intentions.

The Scottish Food Coalition and others believe that we all have a right to food and that that right should be included in the bill. I am yet to be convinced that the cabinet secretary has addressed that. It will be interesting to see how the Bute house agreement reflects that intention in relation to forthcoming human rights legislation.

We have heard responses to the draft bill from a range of stakeholders. I thank them for their valuable input. Stakeholders have high expectations of the bill, and it is therefore incumbent on me and my colleagues in the RAINE Committee to ensure that we get this right.

The bill has been welcomed by many, but some say that it simply does not go far enough. We support the bill at stage 1. However, given the wealth of evidence and consideration in the RAINE Committee’s report, substantial revisions are required to ensure that it is fit for purpose.

First and foremost, there is an expectation that local authorities will need significant resources to deliver the good food nation plan. It was noted that the financial memorandum—which Beatrice Wishart did not have time to talk about—lacks detail in relation to the costs that are likely to fall to relevant authorities. If local authorities are expected to shoulder the weight of responsibility, the Government must recognise that its support should include access to information and advice to support the development of the plans, as well as financial resources.

I want to touch on the point of importance, which is reflected in the RAINE Committee’s report, that the bill should take account of the high-level objectives. In short, that is about the link between Scottish Government policy and the broad vision and ambitions for the good food nation policy.

I do not have time to touch on all the issues today, and I hope that my colleagues in the Scottish Conservatives and other colleagues on the RAINE Committee will cover other aspects. However, I want to say that farmers and food producers should be at the heart of Scottish procurement in order to support jobs, the environment, skills development and social impacts across Scotland.

Dave McKay of the Soil Association made the connection between food and farming clear when he said:

“We want to see our government join the dots between the interconnected climate, nature and dietary health crises.”

We all know that local multipliers mean that money that local authorities spend will be returned to the local economy and will have wide-ranging benefits and cost savings for local authorities. However, there is still a disconnect between local producers and the food that is served in hospitals, schools and prisons.

Locavore, which is a Scottish company, has made great strides in supplying local vegetables that are grown on three sites within 10 miles of Glasgow city centre. That is a good example. The committee heard from Mark Hunter of East Ayrshire Council that the local authority has very good links with the food sector in its area.

If we can get a good food education programme in schools, we can support the health agenda and, obviously, the economic development of our local community. Furthermore, there is an appreciation and understanding that a whole-food system, from gate to plate and back, is needed. We understand that, although several public sector organisations want to support local procurement, the budget constrains them, which means that it is simply not possible for them to do that. The Government must address that, and I would like to see more detail in the financial memorandum to reflect that point.

As I said, food education is vital. As noted in the committee’s stage 1 report,

“there are several social factors impacting people’s ability to source, purchase, cook and consume ‘good’ food. These issues range from transport infrastructure to income, knowledge, and the skills to prepare healthy meals.”

It should be noted that a third of respondents to the consultation mentioned education. We have also heard from the acclaimed “Great British Menu” chef Gary Maclean, who has said that we are failing to educate the next generation about food and food preparation. He says that it goes back to the fact that those life skills have not been passed down from parents to kids for three or four generations. That is exactly why we need the bill to deliver.

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

Does the member not recognise that poverty is as big a driver of food inequality as anything else?

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

Of course it is a driver. However, when I posted about education on my Twitter account, Mr Fairlie, you said that you fully supported that, so I am surprised that you are not stating that you will get right behind—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Speak through the chair, please, Ms Hamilton.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

You Can Cook, which is based in Peebles in the Borders, offers classes, demonstrations, talks and workshops on food and health-related issues all over Scotland. It has found that half of Scottish children from urban areas think that oranges grow in Scotland and that 70 per cent think that cotton comes from sheep. I have long championed food and countryside education. It is vital that we use the bill to educate people on the importance of good local food and how to reduce food waste.

I will move on because time is short. There must be effective oversight of the good food nation policy and accountability for the statutory good food nation plans. Scottish Environment LINK said in its submission on the bill that the lack of an oversight function

“means that a vital piece of the jigsaw is missing” and that that

“risks the effectiveness of this legislation in driving the changes that are urgently needed”.

The Scottish Conservatives agree, as does the committee, that the current oversight provisions in the bill—the requirement to lay all national plans in the Scottish Parliament and to lay a progress report every five years—are insufficient. We will seek to address that at stage 2 with a view to strengthening the oversight function and to providing accountability to Parliament. Furthermore, many stakeholders, including Nourish Scotland and Obesity Action Scotland agree that there is a need for an oversight body. I ask the cabinet secretary for urgent clarity on whether the Scottish Government intends to designate one.

We support the bill at stage 1, but we believe that it is fundamentally lacking in the provisions that are required.

I will end with a quote from Professor Mary Brennan:

“there is great commitment to moving the needle in the right direction, improving our health, social and economic outcomes, and playing our part in improving our environmental outcomes. With careful management, with collaboration and co-creation between the national and local levels and public bodies, and with clarity of purpose on the direction of travel, delivery is possible.”—[

Official Report, Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee,

19 January 2022; c 8-9.]

We will seek to strengthen the bill during stage 2.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

I thank the committee for its extensive gathering of evidence to inform its stage 1 report.

Like the committee, Labour is happy to support the principles of the bill at stage 1, but we believe that it needs to be significantly strengthened.

I begin by paying tribute to the members of the Scottish Food Coalition—the trade unions and charities in the diverse alliance of civil society in Scotland, which has come together to fight for food justice. It recognises that, in a country with so much fine food and drink, plenty of land, plenty of sea and plenty of talented producers, there is no reason why we should not have plenty of good food for everyone. However, the reality is that too many people in Scotland are still going hungry or are reliant on food banks in order to eat. In the food and drink sector, far too many people are employed in jobs that are insecure and poorly paid. Too many agricultural practices continue to be incentivised by a Government support system despite their negative impact on our climate and wildlife—yet too many of our farmers and fishers cannot make a decent living.

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

I simply do not understand the member saying that the farming system is continuing to degrade our countryside, given that there are numerous schemes to help us protect the environment, including the European Union policies that the Government is continuing with.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

If Mr Fairlie thinks that the current scheme is so perfect, I do not understand why the Government has promised to bring forward legislation to change it, when it is failing to deliver—[

Interruption.

] I think that Mr Fairlie wants to keep having a debate. I am happy to do so. I think that changes are needed; so does his Government.

The members of the food coalition recognise that our food policies are not perfect and that we need to find a better and fairer way to feed ourselves that does not damage our people or our environment. The Parliament has an opportunity to recognise that as well, but only if we get the bill right.

I recognise that we have come a long way—somewhat slowly—since the publication in 2014 of the national food and drink policy. I recall being told by ministers when I was first elected that we did not really need legislation to become a good food nation and, time and again, I have had voted down motion after motion calling for the right to food to be enshrined in law. However, thanks to the tenacity and unity of purpose of members of the food coalition and many others, we now have a bill and, at least, the promise of the right to food.

However, it is clear that the bill does not go far enough. What should be an historic opportunity to transform Scotland’s food system, and to reduce food insecurity by ensuring that everyone has access to healthy and sustainable food, is in danger of being a missed opportunity. It is the political equivalent of standing in front of an open goal and belting the ball over the bar from six yards. The Government says that it is a framework bill, but it is an empty frame without a vision. Labour is clear: that vision, the purpose of the bill, should ultimately be to enable the right to food—and the bill should say that. As the United Nations special rapporteur, Professor Michael Fakhri, told the committee, when giving evidence on 28 February,

“If the good food bill is strengthened and infused with human rights commitments, Scotland will stand out as one of the leading nations that seek to promote and realise the right to food for its people”.

That view is shared by the overwhelming majority who gave evidence to the committee. In its written submission, the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland said that it was

“disappointed that the Bill did not take this opportunity to embed the right to food into Scots Law.”

Although it acknowledged that the Government has said that it wants to embed that right within wider human rights legislation, it went on to say:

“that is no reason not to start now” and indicate

“how seriously Scotland takes both the right to food and human rights.”

Scottish Labour believes that the bill should be unambiguous in its purpose to ultimately enable the right to food. We will work with the Government on how best to achieve that. We support the widespread calls to amend the bill in five key areas: to define its purpose; to have clear and measurable objectives; to establish an independent food commission; to strengthen the parliamentary scrutiny process; and to ensure that ministers have a duty to act in accordance with a national good food nation plan, rather than simply having regard to it. I hope that the Government will work with all parties to enable those amendments, because I believe that we can show unity behind a strong bill.

One challenge is the fact that the Government has not published a response to the committee’s stage 1 report, so we are not yet clear what amendments it will bring forward in the very short time between stage 1 and stage 2. If the Government does not bring forward amendments in those five areas, Labour will do so.

I will take each of those areas in turn. Like the overwhelming majority of respondents to the committee, we believe that the bill should have a purpose clause, which should include giving practical effect to the right to food. As WWF said in its written submission, the bill

“should establish high-level policy principles and objectives for ... Scotland’s food system, providing the overarching framework for what a Good Food Nation means in practice.”

It is encouraging that the committee has urged the Scottish Government to include high-level objectives at stage 2, but we believe that it should go further—they should not only be in the bill, but be measurable.

In evidence to the committee on 26 January, the Trussell Trust highlighted that child poverty targets were put in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017, which focused the sector on a unified goal and maintained momentum. Does anybody seriously think that the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 should not have had a measurable commitment to net zero by 2045? Why should we not show the same ambition and have clear legally binding targets when it comes to tackling food poverty or childhood obesity?

The bill needs to set a clear direction for future policy. As Voluntary Health Scotland said in its written submission, the bill

“should establish high-level policy principles and objectives for fixing Scotland’s food system”,

and that that should

“inform and underpin all future food-related legislation and policy—including but not limited to the ... Agriculture Bill, the Circular Economy Bill, the Environment Bill and future public health measures on food.”

That important point was also made by RSPB and OneKind, which rightly highlighted that animal welfare should be prioritised in the bill and future policy.

Labour shares the view that the bill should provide a more comprehensive oversight function. As Scottish Environment LINK argued in its written submission, the lack of an oversight function

“means that a vital piece of the jigsaw is missing”.

We support the call from the Scottish Food Coalition for an independent Scottish food commission. In its evidence to the committee on 19 January, it highlighted the example of the Scottish Land Commission. The view that the role should be undertaken by a new body was also backed by the Scottish Human Rights Commission, which made the valid point in its written evidence that allocating the role to an existing body

“is likely to underestimate the scale of work involved and the specialisms required to deliver it.”

The way in which the bill is scrutinised by Parliament needs to be clear. We believe that the national good food nation plan should ultimately require the approval of Parliament.

We share the view that the well-worn legislative phrase requiring ministers to “have regard to” their own national good food nation plan should be replaced with “act in accordance with”.

For far too long, too many people in Scotland have lacked adequate access to food, exposing the gross inequalities that we face today. In a nation that provides so much outstanding food and drink, it really is to our shame that many children in Scotland still go to bed hungry.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You need to conclude now.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

We have a long way to go to make sure that the bill is a bold good food nation bill, but we support its principles and we will work with the Government and all parties to deliver the changes that are needed.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We move to the open debate.

Photo of Jenni Minto Jenni Minto Scottish National Party

The Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill is the first piece of legislation that I have been involved in, and I thank the committee clerks and my fellow committee members for their hard work and dedication to this vitally important issue.

We took evidence from organisations from Shetland to Argyll and Bute, and from Zero Waste Scotland to the Scottish Food Coalition. That evidence will support a bill that will take Scotland further along the road to becoming a good food nation by creating a national plan and requiring plans to be created by public bodies. As Jayne Jones of Argyll and Bute Council said,

“We are already on that journey—we are not at the very beginning of it. We need to recognise the progress that we have already made, but the good food nation agenda gives us the opportunity to do more.”—[

Official Report

,

Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee

, 9 February 2022; c 43.]

Food and cuisine are important to me. My culinary journey has been a bit of a winding road. I went from turning down good Scottish puddings covered in custard at school to looking forward to them when at a freezing filming location, and from only eating haddock smothered in ketchup as a child to enjoying fish of every variety as my top food choice. Personally, I am pleased that the Scottish Government has the vision of Scotland being a good food nation where it is normal for Scots to love their food and know what constitutes good food.

We took evidence from Robin Gourlay, who helped to develop “Recipe for Success” when he was at East Ayrshire Council. He said:

“If you look at the work of Scotland Food & Drink, other industry bodies, our colleagues working in health and those working in climate, you see that there is a consensus to do something better with food.”—[

Official Report

,

Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee

, 19 January 2022; c 6.]

There is also a consensus that those who serve and sell food—from schools to hospitals, and from retailers to restaurants—should serve and sell the best. One of my staff members recalls with pleasure the lunches that he and his friends enjoyed when Dunoon grammar school upped its game and began to provide food that was both nutritious and delicious. He reflects on how the meals were especially important to youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Scottish Government invested £5 million in food education projects between 2010 and 2017. There we see public policy improving the lives and health of vulnerable individuals. That is the next part of the vision for Scotland as a good food nation: that everyone in Scotland has easy access to the healthy and nutritious food that they need.

Food not only feeds the body but enriches our lives in other ways. It is a way of bringing people together, from Burns suppers to the food that is served at Sikh gurdwaras. However, for all too many children, home cooking is a ready meal served in front of the television.

Photo of Jenni Minto Jenni Minto Scottish National Party

I will not.

Serving attractive food in schools and other institutions will allow us to offer many more people the opportunity of eating together and sharing food, united by the joy of good food.

Through good food nation plans, the connection between food and health will help to reduce diet-related diseases and support people who have long-term conditions. Two weeks ago, I visited the recently opened dialysis unit in Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute, where I met a patient who receives dialysis three times a week. Until the unit opened, he had to travel to Inverclyde. He told me about the difference that having his dialysis close to home has made: he has time to prepare his evening meal so that it is ready when he returns from his treatment and he does not have to eat a microwaved meal. He is eating healthier food and he is happier.

In evidence, the committee heard stark figures from Iain Gulland, of Zero Waste Scotland, on food’s environmental impact. An area larger than China is used to grow food that is never eaten; 1 billion hungry people in the world could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the United Kingdom, the United States and Europe; and, in hospitality and food services in Scotland, the equivalent of 106 million meals—that is one in every six meals—is discarded every year.

Iain Gulland concluded by saying that Scottish households need support to end food waste and recycle as much as possible. Wasting food is wasting water, energy and resources. The Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill should be an enabler for such support.

Scottish producers ensure that what they produce is increasingly healthy and environmentally sound. Professor Mary Brennan of the Scottish Food Coalition told the committee:

“A good food nation produces food that does as little harm as possible to the environment. It produces and consumes food that is produced to the highest welfare and wellbeing standards. It looks after its natural resources: the animals, fish, watercourses and marine environments that are central to our existence.”—[

Official Report

,

Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee

, 19 January 2022; c 8.]

Shopping for tempting food can and should be an enjoyable experience, but it becomes a misery for people if most of what they can see is too expensive and they and their loved ones must do without. However, minimum wage levels, the cost of heating homes and the increase in national insurance are subjects for different debates. Today, we can continue to put Scotland on a course that will make school meals, hospital meals and all foods that are served by public bodies support the health and wellbeing of our nation.

Serving the right food can improve our communities and our environment. Sourcing local ingredients sustainably supports local economies, cuts food miles and helps us on the road to net zero carbon emissions—and, in this complex and turbulent time in world history, increasing food self-sufficiency makes strategic sense.

If we are to do all of that, we need to support Scottish producers in ways that enable them to provide quality ingredients at prices that people can afford. And what producers we have! In my constituency, we have small and medium-sized enterprises that are coffee roasters; tea growers; dairy, beef and lamb farmers; ice cream producers; vegan cheese makers; and fish and shellfish fishers. That is not to forget the folk with gardens and allotments who grow their own fruit and veg.

Professor Michael Fakhri, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, provided a statement to the committee by video. He said:

“Covid-19 has laid bare the inequalities and underlying issues in every country’s food system. In this context, your good food nation bill is a timely and exemplary response to address deep-rooted challenges.”

I support the motion.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

The Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill touches several different policy areas. Today, I will focus my comments on the bill’s potential for driving progress on sustainable agriculture and the wider environment.

Where the bill can do the most good is in helping farmers to answer the question, “How do we produce more food while using fewer resources?” That is the problem that we face in a world in which the population is rising but the resources are dwindling. Coming up with solutions gives Scotland the opportunity to lead the world in sustainable food production.

To do that, we need a better idea of the wider impact that food production has on society, the economy, the environment and people’s wellbeing. Such an approach, which is being championed by NFU Scotland, would let us build a picture of the food value chain that includes the condition of local supply chains, the effect that imports are having and, ultimately, how we ensure food security. Given that we have just come through a pandemic in which just-in-time supply chains were stretched and food security was, at times, a genuine concern for some, those are issues that the bill should put front and centre. Alongside that, farmers should be recognised as being part of the solution by creating a more circular food production system that helps to restore nature, protect wildlife and fight climate change.

Photo of Màiri McAllan Màiri McAllan Scottish National Party

I invite the member to reflect on his point about food security, given that it is his party, in government in the UK, that is signing post-Brexit trade deals that Scottish farmers have warned will bring down standards for food and the environment and undermine their business. How does that support food security?

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

I am quite surprised by that intervention, because every part of the UK is set to benefit from those trade agreements. In 2020, Scotland exported £126 million-worth of beverages to Australia, and the trade deal with Australia will remove tariffs of up to 5 per cent on Scotch whisky. New Zealand lamb was already quota free before the trade deal with New Zealand. I hope that that answers the minister’s question.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

No. I need to make progress. I understand why Ms McAllan did not ask me about tackling climate change—because the Scottish Government has failed to meet its emissions targets for three years in a row.

The obvious starting point is to make farms more efficient, because more efficient farms are more sustainable farms. To do that, we need to reduce waste—for example, by reducing discharges through the use of precision fertiliser and slurry operations or closed nutrient loops to prevent nutrient loss.

Fertiliser is an especially big challenge right now, with the war in Ukraine having sent the price skyrocketing—the cost of nitrogen is nudging £1,000 per tonne. The effects of that are already being seen, with farmers being persuaded to adopt regenerative practices, where possible. As well as environmental benefits, such as that of boosting biodiversity, there is the potential for financial savings. Regenerative farming is able to deliver both.

Of course, no system is 100 per cent efficient. There will always be waste, but we should look to generate value from that waste by building new revenue streams for farmers, creating jobs and reducing environmental impacts. The James Hutton Institute has been doing important work on that—it has been looking at how farm wastes and co-products can be used to produce, for example, bioplastics. That process has the potential to displace fossil fuels, with the associated emissions savings in turn supporting the aim of businesses to decarbonise their supply chains.

However, help is needed to make such solutions work. I am pleased to say that the Scottish Conservatives were ahead of the curve on that. For the past several years, we have called for direct financial and technical support for farmers to install new equipment and upgrade infrastructure. We would further assist food producers through our Scotland first strategy, by encouraging public services to use local food, where possible, which would shorten supply chains, help to improve animal welfare and reduce environmental impacts, in turn promoting good Scottish fare and helping to support more than 150,000 people in the food and drink sector supply chain.

Unfortunately, the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill, as it is currently drafted, simply does not cover any of that in sufficient detail. We hear about public bodies producing their own good food nation plans but without knowing exactly what will be in them. Equally, there are no high-level targets or outcomes to guide individual plans. Those points are highlighted by the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee. I appreciate the cabinet secretary’s assurance that some of the detail will be found in the individual plans, but they need direction to support national objectives, especially environmental progress, which seems to be an obvious link to the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill. That is just not happening.

Scottish Environment LINK says that the bill is

“significantly lacking, particularly from an environmental perspective” while Nourish Scotland warns that it

“is lacking in ambition and purpose.”—[

Official Report, Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee,

26 January 2022; c 2.]

Let me be clear. I want to see food production improved, farmers supported and our environment protected. We all do. The draft bill is too weak to do that. That must be resolved at stage 2 if we are going to build a good food nation.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Willie Coffey, who joins us remotely, to be followed by Rhoda Grant. You have up to six minutes, Mr Coffey.

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in support of the bill and about the committee’s detailed scrutiny and report at stage 1.

The aims of the bill are fairly straightforward: to produce good food nation plans and to have regard to those plans when exercising other functions. I particularly enjoyed reading the section of the committee’s report on exactly what “have regard to” means, but I will talk about that later, if I get the opportunity.

The principles behind the bill are a natural consequence of Scotland’s having an excellent world-class reputation for producing high-quality food. Taking that a step further by creating local food plans is world leading. It is nice to think that other nations look to Scotland to lead on how to become a good food nation. That expectation will certainly have been enhanced by the committee’s diligence in scrutinising the Government’s proposals. We can see that clearly if we read the report. I am pleased to see that the bill also received the unanimous support of the committee—albeit with a number of recommendations to strengthen it.

It is quite an aim to ask the nation to embrace a good food nation plan and to ask that we all take pride in the food that we produce, buy, cook and, ultimately, enjoy every day. As ever, the tests of success will be whether the legislation will be easily adopted across a country that is as diverse as Scotland, and how effective it will be in meeting the aims. There was some good discussion in the committee about how that could be done.

The Government describes the bill as a framework bill, so the committee looked in detail at whether the bill itself should include targets and outcomes. From what I have read, I know that a number of targets were offered during evidence, but the committee took the reasonable view that it is not appropriate to include targets in a framework bill, especially when the key driver will be the development of local good food plans across the country, varied though they will no doubt be.

One big issue that came up was the duty of oversight, and where it should lie. From the discussion of the subject in the report, it is clear that the proposals to lay the national plans in Parliament and to make five-yearly progress reports are thought to be insufficient. It is also fair to say that there was no agreement about whether a new body should provide that oversight, or whether the duty could be placed on an existing body. I would be grateful to the committee members who will speak in the debate if they would clarify that point; it looks as though some work remains to be done on that part of the bill.

One aspect of the bill that took me by surprise was the proposal that there be a statutory right to food. I was genuinely pleased to read that, of course. The question whether to incorporate that within the bill or within human rights legislation also caused quite a bit of discussion. From what I can see, the committee supported the proposal’s being contained in human rights legislation, but with strong references to that right being clear within the bill. Again, I commend the committee for exploring the important matter of a person’s right to an adequate standard of living, with food clearly being a key part of that.

I return briefly to the debate on what “have regard to” actually means. The bill asks ministers to have regard to the national good food nation plan when exercising other duties. Discussion seemed to centre on what that actually means. That there should be demonstration by evidence that the plan is part of wider consideration is how I read that, but I think that it would be a wise move on my part to leave it to other members to explain that more fully.

I am grateful to colleagues in East Ayrshire Council who reminded the committee that some authorities are already on the good food nation journey, and that the council is recognised as one of the leading authorities in Scotland when it comes to farming, food production and celebrating good food. There are more than 1,000 small and medium-sized food and drink businesses across Ayrshire. East Ayrshire Council is leading the local economic partnership’s food and drink workstream, and is, as part of the Ayrshire growth deal, developing a centre of excellence to support the industry. That work was led in its early days by Robin Gourlay, who was mentioned by Jenni Minto.

Like many other members, I am extremely proud of the quality of produce that comes from my part of the world—Ayrshire, which has the finest milk, dairy products and quality beef on offer, and which gave its name to the curing process for the bacon products that are enjoyed by so many people in Parliament and across the world.

Lastly, please let us remember that it will not be too long before our famous Ayrshire tatties will be on the market.

With that, Presiding Officer, I commend the committee for its excellent work. I look forward to hearing members’ contributions.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

We are rightly proud of Scottish produce, but our food system has huge disconnects; long food chains often leave producers distant from their customers and it is often middlemen who reap the profit. I will focus on the human right to food and why it should be at the heart of the bill.

The Co-operative Party tells us that 81 per cent of Scots support the right to food being enshrined in Scots law. It is a Government’s first responsibility to ensure that its citizens’ needs are met, and the most basic of those needs is food. We cannot be a good food nation when so many people go hungry and are malnourished.

Too often, the people who produce our food are among those who do not have access to it. The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union surveyed its members last year and found that 40 per cent of respondents had gone hungry at some point during the pandemic because they could not afford food. Those are people who go out to work to provide our food, but their pay is not sufficient for them to buy it. They are not alone; that is commonplace throughout our food industry. Food prices are subject to rampant inflation, with the price of some staples having increased by as much as 45 per cent in the past year. The war in Ukraine is unlikely to make that situation any better.

It is time for the Scottish Government to get a grip. Plans and fancy words do not feed people: we need action. The right to food should be at the heart of the bill, and with it should be a body that is charged with delivering that right, because it cannot be delivered by the free market.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

I have a lot to cover. I am sorry.

The idea of a commission is not new; we have several commissions and committees that oversee, advise on and report on progress in other areas, including climate change and poverty. As Colin Smyth said, the Scottish Food Coalition argued for a commission at committee. It asked for a body like the Scottish Land Commission that would advise Government and other public bodies on drawing up their food plans. That body would also assess those plans and their implementation and would report to Parliament on the progress that is being made towards Scotland becoming a good food nation. Many others, including the Scottish Human Rights Commission, have argued for such an independent body.

Enshrining the right to food in a human rights bill will not change anything, because it is a right that we already have, but many people cannot exercise it. The challenge is to give people access to that right and to make it a reality. We face a cost of living crisis that is only going to get worse, but the Government is missing an opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives. This is not just about hunger and how it dehumanises people; it is also about the personal cost to people and the cost to society. Dealing with health inequalities that are caused by malnutrition costs us all dear: prevention must be the better way.

The issue is more complex than being simply financial, although affordability plays a huge part. We know that supermarkets are not normally situated in deprived communities. People who live in deprived communities are often left to depend on more expensive smaller shops, and people on limited incomes cannot afford a large food shop to be delivered to their door.

The matter is also about the inability to access food. An older person might have had their driving licence revoked, or might not be physically fit enough to go shopping. Older people are also less likely to book a shopping delivery online. There has been an increase in the number of older people being admitted to hospital underweight and malnourished.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

I am sorry, but I am really short of time.

What does that say about us as society? We are a rich country, but we are seeing the return of diseases and conditions that are related to malnutrition and an increase in obesity. We all know that processed food is cheaper than good-quality food: compare the price of pie, beans and chips with that of a roast dinner. Processed food is loaded with unhealthy fats and sugar, but it is affordable to people who are on low incomes, and that stores up problems for the future.

My colleague Elaine Smith consulted on a proposed right to food bill, which won support in Parliament. Because the Government parties wanted to kick the proposal into the long grass, I, similarly, had to consult—so I have.

My wish is that the right to food and a commission to oversee its implementation will be included in the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill. In that way, it would have maximum effect. The Scottish Government could then stand proud of world-leading legislation. I urge it to include those things. If it does, it will have my party’s support. If it does not, I will introduce a bill, and the Government will have to look the hungry people in Scotland in the eye when it votes that bill down. The Government will need to explain, from its position of privilege, why it cannot afford our citizens the basic human right to food.

I hope that the Scottish Government will reflect on that and ensure that all our citizens can exercise their right to food, and that we can all enjoy Scotland’s wonderful produce.

Photo of Karen Adam Karen Adam Scottish National Party

The Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill could play a crucial role in setting the direction of travel towards a fair, healthy and sustainable food system in Scotland. World-leading legislation that establishes the core purpose of the food system in law, with accompanying systems of governance that ensure progress and accountability, can catalyse a transformation in how our food system works.

That has been the aim and objective of the work that I have experienced as a member of the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee. By taking a whole-system approach, the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill creates a revolutionary framework that ensures that people’s fundamental human rights and the integrity of our ecological home are promoted today and into the future.

The cost of living crisis has created a growing situation in which food is at the heart of some of our biggest challenges in this country. In the committee, we discussed food insecurity. That brought back forgotten memories of just how creative my own family would have to be, not out of choice but out of necessity. I spent time living in a food-insecure home, and I remember the innovative methods that I would use to make a small amount of food stretch a long way to feed my entire family. People simply cannot afford what they cannot afford.

To our nation’s detriment, the most affordable foods are often the ones that are high in salts and natural carbohydrate sugars—particularly long-life canned and packet goods, which are needed to stock food banks. That creates a whole host of societal and cultural issues that feed into the direct link between poverty and poor health outcomes. The implementation of the bill could contribute towards combating that.

I hope that, through our work, we have swept aside the rhetoric of the past around education as a silver bullet. The arguments about obesity being a consequence of ignorance are long gone. I recall many pieces of evidence—from evidence on inequality and ill health to evidence on ecological damage—that shed light on a food system with a sense of injustice that the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill will address.

Not least now, in the context of doing what we can, when we can to protect our people in Scotland who are reeling from an escalating cost of living crisis and to mitigate that, we are seeing people who are, maybe for the first time, being priced out of a decent diet, are reliant on food banks and are suffering the consequences of malnutrition and food insecurity.

Engaging with this piece of work has been, and will be, invaluable. The legislation, supported by existing rights and fleshed out as the cost of living crisis grows, will—it has to—make progress. Whole generations are growing up hungry, children’s educational attainment is being affected, opportunities are being denied and potential is not being realised. ?

?It would be true to say that in the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee’s deliberations, attention has been paid to setting targets in the legislation. However, part of the problem is what targets actually mean in this context. ?The bill should not be led by the nose by a focus on targets but led and delivered holistically. l will explain why.

?The roll-out of the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill can be led by looking at the positive impact of our changing culture around food.?That wraparound approach provides flexibility and vision in how performance is measured, and a path that does not focus on targets, which could otherwise restrict and narrow our performance outcomes. The here today, gone tomorrow targets that become meaningless in a rapidly changing landscape will not assist the path of the bill into practice and becoming part of lived experience.

People who are experiencing food poverty are concerned not about targets but about actual performance and their personal reality of ?easy access to good food. Facilitating a more holistic approach in the bill underpins the work that is already being done and gives it a legislative basis. Parents are going out to work without having eaten enough because they have given up meals so that their children can eat—what an indictment that is of our political and economic system.?That must change and the bill addresses that.?

?As we now know only too well in our contemporary context, the social, economic and political landscape can change dramatically, as it may do in the coming months. In asking what could be used as markers for outcomes from the law, we must not fall into the trap of having targets become the focus, rather than driving forward a fundamental culture change.?

We must value the people who work to produce and process food, as well as the farm animals, wildlife and natural resources that enable us to eat well. We need a just transition to a food system that is founded on the principles of social and environmental justice, and the bill will provide that.?

We need local authorities to play their part in supporting that change in ways that drive forward a cultural movement in our nation towards getting back to growers, which can be supported by including allotments and community gardens in planning decisions. ??Growing supports our environment and our mental health objectives; it can provide therapy and community bonding for young and old alike; and it provides green spaces for people to enjoy; we saw how important that was during the pandemic in particular. ?

To enable us to imagine a nation of good food that we can all support, the framework bill includes a vision of a country where we appreciate and can take part in the process of farm to fork, boat to bowl and propagation to our plate.

Photo of Elizabeth Smith Elizabeth Smith Conservative

T here are numerous reasons why it is a privilege to live in Scotland, but there are three worth mentioning in the context of this debate: the unique splendour of our landscapes, in particular on days like today when it is not raining; the abundance of our natural resources; and our capacity to produce world-class food. Colin Smyth made some interesting points about the potential that we have in that regard.

Good food is a very large part of being able to live well. It should go without saying, therefore, that we must harness everything in our power to ensure that it is accessible to all. Without good food, there is no access to good health, a strong economy or a strong sense of wellbeing.

Members know only too well that, over the years, I have, in general, been pretty hostile towards national plans of any sort, because past experience with plans in this place has not been encouraging. Too many national plans have been overlaid with too much bureaucracy and too many burdens on stakeholder groups, and with artificial targets, and we have ended up in situations in which people are told by the state what to do rather than taking responsibility themselves.

Before I comment on this particular plan, I will concentrate on three themes in the bill that I believe can be the focus for the desired aim: namely, to ensure that Scotland is a world leader when it comes to good food. These three themes are the availability of food, its production and its preparation.

First, the question of availability is not just about the supply of food but about how pricing affects consumer demand and the related elasticities within that demand. All too often, people tell us that good food will always be more expensive, but that is a myth—it is simply not true. Indeed, some of the best and most wholesome food is actually the cheapest.

Take homemade soup, for example, on which I have heard Mr Fairlie speak during the election campaign and in the chamber since. That is made with quality vegetables that we have in our local shops and on our farms. Willie Coffey made a point about the traditional Scottish dish of mince and tatties. That dish can be as good as any when it comes to quality food and it is a lot cheaper than a fish supper or a pizza carry-out. So, too, with a myriad of straightforward recipes.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

I bow to no one in my respect for mince and tatties. However, given what the member said about making a bowl of soup, does she recognise that, in many communities in Scotland, accessing a shop that sells fresh vegetables is no simple task?

Photo of Elizabeth Smith Elizabeth Smith Conservative

I absolutely do and I am coming to that point, going back again to some suggestions that Mr Fairlie has made in the past. Mr Allan is quite right, but it is not just about accessing the food but about knowing what to do when it comes to making the soup. That is an important point as well. The education that is involved is crucial. I do not often agree with Mr Fairlie in the chamber, as everybody knows, but he has made a very strong point in the past about young people in schools needing to know what they have to do. That is a very important part of the curriculum for educating our young people, as, indeed, is knowing how to avoid waste.

I am obviously not a farmer in any sense, but I live in the farming communities in Perthshire and I am in awe of what they manage to do, often against the elements and in very difficult circumstances. It is true that they have had their difficulties with Brexit and Covid and have not had their troubles to seek, but they also have some big asks of us.

Top of the list for farmers, quite rightly, is that they want us to buy local. That includes local authorities and other institutions doing their bit when it comes to procurement. As Rachael Hamilton said, the Scottish Conservatives have been calling for that for a very long time. That procurement is vital, not just to harness the best of our local areas but to support jobs and the related rural industries. If the bill is to be effective, facilitating that local procurement is a key component.

Another important issue is the culture that surrounds the preparation of the food. Far too often these days, mealtimes are squeezed, and there are two problems in that. It often means that poorer-quality food is being served—Karen Adam made that very sensible point—and it certainly means that quality family time around the dinner table is reduced. Personally, I think that the French have a lot to teach us in trying to address that issue, because in France food is very much seen as a national treasure. We need to do an awful lot more to imbue exactly the same culture across Scotland.

Therefore, quite a bit of creating a good food nation is about attitudinal changes and we in the chamber know from various other policy initiatives that changing attitudes and behaviour is not easy. However, I do not think that we should sit back and say that we will not try, because the committee has come up with some very interesting suggestions about what the basket of indicators has to be, as opposed to the targets. That is a very important part of the recommendations in the committee’s report.

I will finish by saying that Beatrice Wishart, speaking on behalf of the committee, raised some very interesting points about the procedures that the committee will have to recommend to Parliament to ensure that we go about the legislation in absolutely the right way to deliver what the intention is, rather than getting wound up in some legislation that will not be very effective.

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

It is not often that I agree with Liz Smith, but there was much in her speech that I absolutely agree with.

I will take you on a wee history lesson of my involvement with this whole debate, Presiding Officer. In 1995, the Aberdeen

Evening Express reported on a chip shop in Stonehaven that was selling Mars Bars deep fried in batter during the school holidays, which were specially targeted at children. It was a novelty story that was picked up by press across the country and around the world. One newspaper described the place as “Scotland’s Craziest Takeaway”, and the story became synonymous with obesity, ill health and a high-fat diet, which did nothing to enhance the already poor reputation of Scotland’s appreciation of and relationship with food.

The irony is that, as we have said, Scotland’s larder is world renowned and has been for generations. Lamb, beef, venison, salmon, shellfish, whisky, potatoes, haggis and neeps—the world knew all about our well-loved home produce, and yet we still had the reputation of being the sick man of Europe, with a very unhealthy relationship with alcohol and fatty, obesity-inducing foods.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

Does Mr Fairlie agree that we must look at planning and at where we put fast-food outlets? Should we allow burger vans, for example, to be anywhere close to our schools? We must encourage our children to take up school meals.

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

Absolutely—I called for that when I was outside Parliament and I completely agree.

The situation did not add up, and someone had to take the initiative to change the attitude that we had and to address the obesity challenges. Hungry for success—a national nutritional standards programme for schools—was launched in 2003 in a bid to tackle the highest level of obesity in Europe. That was a significant step forward, and then came the Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007, which remains the overarching legislation on food provision and a whole-school approach to promoting health and wellbeing.

The regulations were reviewed in 2017, and they were revised again in 2021, so that schools now take account of health and wellbeing in planning. We introduced universal free school meals in primary schools to promote social justice. That is a vital service as the cost of living crisis that we are facing takes hold.

I have spoken before about my experience of working with Perth high school to help it to develop as a health-promoting school. We set up a programme to give young people access to and participation in whole-food-chain processes from growing to preparing, cooking and then selling. What those young people got out of that was life skills and an introduction to a vibrant and exciting industry, with the possibility of developing a career for themselves.

My involvement at that level with my children’s school was mainly down to a changing attitude and culture around food across schools and local authorities. That was driven by various governmental initiatives and in particular by the 2009 national food and drink policy for Scotland. That was a landmark piece of work from Richard Lochhead—it was the first of its kind in Europe. I do not have time to quote what he said then.

In 2009, Robin Gourlay chaired the national food and drink policy public sector working group, which was aimed at creating new opportunities for food and drink SMEs and at achieving better public procurement by public sector organisations. His success in East Ayrshire meant that he was the right person to chair the group, which looked at how we could put the talk into action.

The report that Robin Gourlay authored was—aptly—called “Walking the Talk—Getting Government Right”. It introduced integrating sustainable development and accounting for the social, economic and environmental value of food in awarding contracts, as well as the social return on investment. They were two vital elements in driving the move away from considering pence per meal to delivering wider value for money across society. That is a crucial difference in changing attitudes to the real value of food in public procurement.

Seeing the whole picture, from legislation in this place to working with it in the field—if members will pardon the pun—has been of huge value and emphasises to me why we need to get this right. Our global reputation for quality food is fabulous; our imagery and marketing have been superb.

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

I am sorry—I do not have time.

The Scotch Whisky Association was undoubtedly a front runner, and others are learning from it. The Scottish Government’s genius incorporation of Scotland Food & Drink as the collaborative lynchpin for the whole food industry, under the stewardship of James Withers, has been a massive success. Scotland’s reputation for quality places to eat out is growing, and I am very proud to say that it is led by my brother’s restaurant at Gleneagles, which is still the only two-Michelin-star restaurant in Scotland.

Appreciation of our home-grown and local food offering has grown massively. I am proud of my small role in establishing Scotland’s first farmers market, which led to an explosion across the country of farmers markets, farm shops and local food delivery businesses. Creating the connection between growers, farmers, fishers, producers and consumers has been pivotal in getting us to where we are now.

Equally, our street food culture has grown exponentially. Small artisan traders are getting out there and cooking fabulous-tasting and locally sourced top-quality foods. That is a world away from when I started festival catering; organisers now recognise that quality food is something to be proud of and is an important element of any event.

I mention all that to emphasise that we are on a journey that we have been on for a long time and in which we have made great strides and improvements. There is a danger in the debate of dismissing all that has gone before without recognising its value and—importantly—its lessons.

We have come an extremely long way in a relatively short period of time, but there is much more to do, which is where the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill comes in. The requirement in the bill to set out a plan has been criticised for lacking ambition, being too narrow, not having targets and missing an opportunity. I disagree, because those claims miss the fundamental point of what has already been achieved. The bill is the next stage in embedding and boosting all that good work. It is a framework bill that will focus the minds of those in the public sector to ensure that every aspect of their thinking has regard to food and its role in every function of their operation. Across all their departments, local authorities will have to take cognisance of all those aspects and include them in their thinking.

The bill strengthens the levers for change and continues the cultural shift that Scotland has been making for more than two decades. When we look back in five years, we will be able to measure that success with improved health, economic development and the cultural shifts that we witness in everyday life, and how much closer we are to becoming a good food nation.

Photo of Ariane Burgess Ariane Burgess Green

Getting food right in Scotland will play a crucial role in our country’s wellbeing. The Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill is not only about what is on our plates, but about every single activity that puts the food on to that plate and what happens when the scraps are scraped off and the plate is washed.

Food entwines many systems. It engages thousands of people in sectors from soil science to food growing and harvesting, fishing and farming, through to cooking and serving, preparing and packaging, and delivery and retail. It involves us all, because we all buy and eat food. Food is at the centre of our lives. We must recognise that the way in which we produce, procure and value good food can help us to take massive strides in our response to the climate and nature emergencies, our health and education crises, and our growing food insecurity and mental ill health challenges. That is why the Scottish Greens ensured that there were commitments in the Bute house agreement to support better procurement and organic farming.

As Jim Fairlie outlined, for years, countless people and organisations across Scotland have been pushing for a good food nation bill, because, until now, we have not been doing a great job of providing genuinely nutritious food for people. We need the bill to help us all to do better. The bill can be strengthened at stage 2.

In its response to the RAINE Committee’s report, the 45-organisation-strong Scottish Food Coalition states that the bill

“must be strengthened as it currently has no clear goals, principles or direction, and minimal mechanisms for participation and accountability.”

The majority of people who gave evidence to the committee agreed that the bill needs more detail, clearer ambition, clarity of vision, outcomes and levers for change.

I will highlight key areas in which public bodies can be supported to develop and deliver on strong good food nation plans and signal to the private sector the clear change in direction that we must make. First, a purpose statement at the start of the bill would make clear the direction in which Scottish food policy should be heading. Anna Taylor, the chief independent adviser on England’s national food strategy, who gave evidence to the committee, called for a statement that sets out the benefits that a good food nation will bring to people, animals and our environment, and

“the role that we want food to play in society and our lives.”—[

Official Report, Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee,

26 January 2022; c 18.]

S takeholders have suggested that the statement could be underpinned by a list of high-level objectives, as we have heard discussed already, and a set of outcomes, such as addressing the environmental impact of food production and the level of food insecurity in society. Just like the outcomes in the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, those would function as guide rails to ensure that the plans all move us towards the same shared vision of a good food nation while leaving room for different policy approaches to get there, as is appropriate for different regions.

One necessary outcome that I will highlight is increasing the share of local food that is procured by public bodies. That is reflected in commitments in the Bute house agreement, which we will now deliver. Supporting Scottish producers and supply chains through public procurement is essential for increasing food security, which is becoming ever more critical, as shown by the war in Ukraine. It will also boost our health and local economies, and protect our climate and nature. Support must be put in place to enable local authorities to pull that important lever.

In evidence, people highlighted the need to provide advice and guidance to the public and private sectors, to benchmark and measure progress, and to involve citizens, food workers and stakeholder groups in inclusive processes, in order to develop informed and effective food policy.

An independent oversight body could play an important role, and several stakeholders have called for a Scottish food commission with a role and remit similar to that of the Scottish Land Commission. Others have used the comparison of the United Kingdom Climate Change Committee, which is a purpose-built, cross-cutting body with expertise in all aspects of climate change. We need a body with such wide-ranging expertise for food, because that is another cross-cutting issue. I am grateful that the cabinet secretary has indicated that she is considering such an oversight body.

Finally, we heard from several stakeholders interesting arguments that the bill should recognise the proposed right to food. I am pleased that that crucial right is expected to be incorporated soon into Scots law, through the Scottish Government’s human rights bill.

I trust that I have expressed the urgency for Scotland to become a good food nation. We all have a lot on our plates, but we must use the opportunity to strengthen this vital bill, to ensure that the good food nation plans and policies serve up the outcomes that we all know that we need for our health, our food security and our planet.

Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests. As many members know, I come from a background in the food business, and the issue of good food is close to my heart.

I commend the work of the committee in examining the bill and allowing us now to debate its merits. The aims of the bill, as stated in its policy memorandum, sound very noble. They include a commitment to Scotland producing, selling and eating good food, a decline in dietary diseases, and the encouragement of healthy and environmentally sound food production. However, what we have before us lacks significant detail, even when we take into consideration the fact that it is a framework bill.

As the committee’s report notes, Scottish ministers have admitted that they did not have to legislate in order to create good food plans for Scotland but did so because they wanted to give the plans “teeth”. We are left to wonder why the ways in which the good food nation plans might bite are not made clearer in the bill.

I agree with the Scottish Food Coalition’s assessment that there should, at the very least, be a purpose on the face of the bill. That purpose should enshrine the right to food as one of its first principles because, when it comes to good food, surely all else must flow from that. That becomes even more relevant given the cost of living crisis that people now face, but there could be so much more.

The Scottish Food Coalition also suggests including in the bill objectives that are based around the UN’s sustainable development goals.

We could enshrine and protect Scotland’s place as a fair trade nation in the bill, which would ensure that we consider sustainable development across the world when we import the food that we cannot grow ourselves. The fact that there is no such vision in the bill before us feels like a missed opportunity.

There is also a wider point about the Scottish Government’s legislative agenda. The cross-party group on international development last week heard about the prospect of a wellbeing and sustainable development bill, which was also promised in the Scottish National Party manifesto at the last election. Apparently, that bill is intended to enshrine policy coherence on sustainable development in the Scottish Government’s legislative and regulatory approaches to governing. Why, then, are the principles of wellbeing and sustainable development not reflected in this bill? Will it have to be amended by the other bill? It is for all of us in the Parliament to foresee those problems and deal with them at later stages, but I worry that it shows a lack of joined-up thinking in the Scottish Government’s approach to the frameworks that it seeks to build.

We must ensure that framework bills provide adequate room for the Parliament to scrutinise the Scottish Government’s plans. As several respondents to the consultation on the bill have noted, that is another aspect that is sorely lacking from what we see in front of us. It was only a few weeks ago that many of us here were criticising the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 and the reliance on common frameworks that shut this Parliament out of decision making on matters of great importance to Scotland. We should not accept another framework being created that shuts the Parliament out of decisions and only adds to executive power. That must be dealt with in later stages.

My assessment is that the principles behind the bill are admirable but it is held back by a lack of imagination regarding the good that it could do and by a lack of avenues for scrutiny when it comes to the involvement of the Parliament. If we agree to the motion today, we should take with us a determination to repair those issues at the later stages of the bill.

On that basis, I will vote in favour of the general principles of the bill.

Photo of Collette Stevenson Collette Stevenson Scottish National Party

I remind members of my entry in the register of members’ interests.

Scotland is a nation with excellent food. With the right frameworks in place, we can take full advantage of that. Scotland can become a good food nation in which everyone takes pride and pleasure in, and benefits from, the food that they produce, buy, cook and eat every day.

I welcome the introduction of the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill and support everything that it sets out to do. As an overarching framework bill, it will not only underpin the work that the Scottish Government is already doing but put the good food nation plans on a legislative footing and ensure that we maximise the benefits of our natural larder.

There are obvious health benefits—both physical and mental—of eating and having access to good food. Moves towards more sustainable and local products will benefit the environment with lower food miles and will sustain and create more local jobs. That is why it is important that there is a duty on ministers to consider all those factors, as set out in section 1.

Food is a huge industry, and East Kilbride is home to many food sector businesses—some local and some global. We have a long-standing tradition of dairy businesses around East Kilbride, which is still the case today. Thorntonhall Farmhouse Ice Cream is a family business that keeps its own dairy cows, milks them and makes excellent, fresh ice cream. McQueens Dairies delivers fresh milk and other products, all of which are sourced from a farmer-owned co-operative.

One of the dangers of unhealthy food and eating lots of it is the salt content. LoSalt, which is based in East Kilbride, is helping to tackle that through its low-sodium products.

Many public services such as hospitals, schools and nurseries provide food; the meals there are arguably some of the most important. The bill will expand on work to improve the nutritional content of food from public kitchens, as well as to increase the use of locally sourced and produced foods, which are important steps in creating a good food nation.

Good procurement is key to that. The Supplier Development Programme does great work and I encourage small businesses in East Kilbride, and across Scotland, to do the development programme’s free training in tendering. Councils and other public sector agencies take out large food contracts for schools, care homes, hospitals and cafes. Big companies with dedicated tendering officers have the means to bid for multimillion-pound contracts and to sort the necessary logistics. Small businesses can struggle to bid for large contracts and often rely on subcontracted opportunities.

Without good supply chain visibility, it is difficult to see local benefits or know the source of the different food products that are being supplied.

Photo of Collette Stevenson Collette Stevenson Scottish National Party

No, I still have a lot to get through.

Beef, for example, might be frozen and come from the other side of the world, or it might have been sourced a mile down the road. Large companies sometimes cite commercial sensitivity and refuse to divulge details of subcontractors. I would like to see supply chain visibility increased, whether that is by promotion and encouragement or through guidance or legislation. That is vital so that politicians, policy makers, businesses and customers can see where food comes from, consider the jobs that are being created and supported locally and see the community benefit that comes from those large contracts.

The proposed community wealth building bill will develop procurement practices to support local economies, including small businesses. It will also encourage school canteens to use more locally produced food. As a nation, we are sometimes not the best at taking advantage of our natural larder. I believe that Scots should eat more indigenous food. That would boost our economy and help to support a good food nation.

As the cabinet secretary knows, I have a constituency interest in lowland deer management. Venison is a local, sustainable, healthy food. However, as things are now, it is not a protein that many people can afford to eat much of. The high cost perhaps reflects the long path to process venison. My discussions with deer managers suggest that that cost could be reduced drastically by the right support and a more localised approach. I hope that, with improved procurement and a bigger focus on local food, we will see some benefits on that front.

I support the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill. It provides a framework to ensure that Scots from every walk of life can benefit from and take pride in the food that they produce, buy, cook, serve and eat every day.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We move to closing speeches. I call Mercedes Villalba to wind up on behalf of Scottish Labour.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

I have just knocked over and spilled a whole glass of water. However, now I can get started.

I thank my colleagues on the committee and everyone who contributed the evidence that helped the committee produce its report.

It is clear that there is broad support across the country and within Parliament for the principles that underlie the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill. That is important because, as the cost of living crisis deepens and more people across Scotland are faced with the reality of food insecurity, transformative change within our food system is long overdue.

The food insecurity that so many now face is not only being driven by the current cost of living crisis; it has been allowed to develop because of political choices made in the past decade. Our Governments have chosen not to tackle low pay, insecure work or inadequate social security provision.

The bill gives us an opportunity to transform our food system and to take action to end food poverty in Scotland. It is clear that, in order to do so, it must be strengthened in a number of areas. As we heard from Rachael Hamilton, the idea of using the bill to incorporate the right to food in Scots law was repeatedly raised throughout the committee’s evidence sessions. That has been called for by campaigners such as the Scottish Food Coalition and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union. Those campaigners are rightly concerned that, as it stands, the bill lacks a clear purpose and will do little to bring effect to the right to food, even if that is introduced in future human rights legislation.

The general secretary of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, Sarah Woolley, expressed that concern when she said:

“no ‘Good Food Nation’ Bill in 2022 can be taken seriously without a statutory commitment to deliver a right to food.”

I hope that, ahead of stage 2, the Scottish Government will reflect on the need for the bill to be given a clearer purpose. As Colin Smyth outlined, and as suggested by campaigners, that could be achieved through the introduction of a purpose clause to make it clear that the bill will give effect to the right to food.

The bill also needs high-level objectives that will help to guide implementation and measure the success of the good food nation plans. Earlier, we heard from Karen Adam that people who are living in food poverty do not care about targets; they care about actual outcomes. That might be true, but without the targets we have no way to mandate and measure the change that we need.

As the bill stands, there is no requirement for good food nation plans to have objectives and indicators in relation to the wider food system. That means that there is no mandate to support sustainable agriculture, to improve animal welfare or to enhance pay and conditions in food supply chains, and it means that there are no indicators that could be used to measure the success of good food nation plans. If we are serious about transforming Scotland into a good food nation, which I think we all are, we must take a system-wide approach to food policy that addresses those issues.

We heard earlier from Ariane Burgess about calls from campaigners for a purpose-built cross-cutting Scottish food commission. Like them, I believe that there is a role for a statutory oversight body to monitor the development and implementation of good food nation plans. As Rhoda Grant highlighted, such an independent oversight body could not only provide scrutiny of good food nation plans but contribute to their development through actions such as research support.

The body could also improve accountability by supporting Parliament in its scrutiny of the national good food nation plan and of the Scottish Government’s overall progress towards delivering a good food nation. Back in August, the Scottish Government recognised that there might be a role for such an oversight body to monitor the delivery of good food nation plans, so I hope that it will now think again about including proposals for such a body ahead of stage 2.

Although Labour supports the principles that underpin the bill, we believe that it is clear that it should be strengthened. The bill should be given a clear purpose to give effect to a right to food; it should include high-level objectives and indicators to help with the development of good food nation plans and to measure their success; and it should provide for a statutory independent oversight body. The Scottish Government has a political choice to make. Will it push forward with an empty framework, or will it work with campaigners and across the parties to create a bill that is fit to bring about the transformational system change that our nation needs?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Brian Whittle to wind up on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

I am delighted to close the debate on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives. As many in the chamber will know, I have pushed long and wearily in this place for the Government to introduce a good food nation bill, through all the false dawns and promises as the Government kicked the can down the road for years. It is a hugely important piece of legislation with potentially significant impacts across all portfolios and all of society.

The bill was introduced against the backdrop of Scotland being the unhealthiest nation in Europe and the second-most obese country in the world after the USA, as well as having many other poor health indicators. I have to tell the cabinet secretary that the situation is worse than it was seven years ago, so I am not sure how she can claim that, over the past seven years, we have become a good food nation. It would be interesting to see the evidence for that.

We are in that situation despite the fact that our farmers produce some of the highest-quality food in the world. The Scottish Government has a target to reduce childhood obesity by 50 per cent by 2030, but there is no mention of that in the bill and no route to achieve that target. The bill should at least acknowledge that food will have a bearing on that target.

The impacts of getting it right are many. Given that adult health outcomes are developed in the early years, there are obvious health links to making sure that our children have access to the highest-quality locally produced food. That applies at the pre-school stage, where the introduction of a level playing field for the roll-out of the 1,140 hours of funded early learning should include funding for healthy meals. However, we know that the private, voluntary and independent sector is being squeezed by the current Scottish Government deal, which will inevitably put pressure on nurseries in that sector in delivering quality food.

Our free school meals should most definitely be locally sourced and of the highest nutritional standard. We should be encouraging that uptake of school meals. On that, as I said in an intervention, we need to look at the planning of where we put fast food outlets and whether we allow things such as burger vans outside schools.

On education, as Liz Smith rightly pointed out—this is such an important point—learning about good nutrition is key, because it leads to good learning and to closing the attainment gap. To link to that, who would have thought that both Liz Smith and I would agree with Jim Fairlie in this chamber? That is the end of his political career. He called for more education in schools about the value of food, and for a health, wellbeing and environment provision in the bill. We agree—so how about supporting our rural economy with local procurement policies, as demonstrated by East Ayrshire Council, which sits at having about 75 per cent local procurement of food in schools?

Five years ago, I did a study on where local council, school and hospital food came from, and the results were as astounding as they were damning. Only 16 per cent of food that was procured into the Scottish Government’s central Scotland Excel contract came from Scotland, with the quality of food in some areas, especially our main cities, being particularly poor. That points to what Rachael Hamilton said about the fact that the Scottish diet has become calorie dense and nutritionally poor.

Maurice Golden, that guru of the circular economy, spoke knowledgeably about our opportunity to develop a sustainable food economy and decarbonise our food supply. We need to reduce the miles that our food has to travel for processing and consumption. That can only benefit the environment.

While we are on the subject, targeting food waste should surely have been put into the bill. After all, we throw away about a third of our food, all the while debating how we tackle food poverty. If food waste were a country, it would be the third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gas—after China and the USA. As Jenni Minto pointed out, we would require an area the size of China to produce all the food that we discard. There is no mention of that in the bill.

In bringing forward the bill, the Scottish Government has avoided all the real issues that it should address. Instead, it is more smoke and mirrors, and unicorns and rainbows. It is the Scottish Government saying that it wants councils to come up with a plan, all the while making sure that there is nothing to be measured against. Where is the financial memorandum for support to our local authorities?

The bill should have a clear purpose. It should link food production with processing, procurement and the reduction of food waste, ensure that adequate and culturally acceptable food is consumed sustainably, and preserve access to food for future generations. It should contain not only clear targets but a route for getting there and a way to measure progress against those targets.

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

How is it possible to legislate for how people eat and how culture can be changed?

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

We can create an environment in which we encourage our children to eat school meals and in which—[

Interruption

.] We have to legislate and create a framework that allows that to happen.

The Scottish Government is really good at setting world-leading targets without any practical way of achieving them. However, I say to Mr Fairlie that, in this instance, it has not even bothered to do that.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

No; I do not have time.

The Scottish Food Coalition is damning in its briefing on the bill, saying that it has

“no clear goals, principles or direction” and minimal mechanisms for participation and accountability.

Not only is the bill years late in being introduced; it is a shadow of what it could and should be. Somehow, it has made its way through the Scottish Government machine, been trampled on, kicked about and reduced to next to nothing. What an opportunity has been missed.

The Scottish Government has a lot of work to do before the bill has any real meaning. No wonder it insists on marking its own homework; if anyone else did it, it would be lucky to get an F. The debate has exposed the Scottish Government’s need to get back to the drawing board, do the job that it is supposed to do, and produce a bill that is worthy of the title.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Mairi Gougeon, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, to wind up on behalf of the Scottish Government, for up to eight minutes.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I thank all members who have taken part in the debate. Food is fundamental to the lives of all of us. It touches us across society and across Government. That can be seen from the breadth of organisations and interests that gave evidence to the committee and from the sheer range of issues that have been raised during the debate.

As I mentioned at the start of the debate, Scotland has been on a good food journey for many years. We have taken many important steps in improving people’s lives through food policy, from tackling issues around health and diet to addressing food’s environmental impact. The bill is not intended to be the culmination of that journey; it is the next important step on it. Jim Fairlie made that point well in his speech. We cannot dismiss the work that has led us here or forget what has come before.

The bill ensures that the Government can be held to account by everyone who is affected by food policy decisions, through the creation of new and innovative national and local food plans.

So many different issues have been raised today, and I will try to cover as many as I can in my closing speech. One is food security, which Jenni Minto and Maurice Golden touched on. The horrific events that we have watched unfold in Ukraine over the past few weeks have brought that issue into sharp focus. As a Government, we have recognised the importance of our primary producers in food production, which is why food production is one of the key pillars that we set out in our vision for agriculture, why our good food nation ambitions and local food strategy are mentioned in the vision, and why we have committed to continuing to support our food producers.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

Not at the moment.

We live in a country that is plentiful in terms of what we produce. We often talk about the fantastic natural larder that we have. However, we heard powerful interventions from Karen Adam and Rhoda Grant about the food insecurity and levels of ill health and malnutrition that people face in spite of that. When I was going through the evidence, one thing that shocked me was food waste—Brian Whittle touched on it in his speech. I was shocked by the statistics that the committee heard from Zero Waste Scotland when it gave evidence about the sheer amount of food that we see going to waste in this country.

We produce so much good food. How do we make that accessible? How do we reduce food waste? How do we build a food system that works, that is fair to our farmers and crofters, that is connected through short supply chains and that better connects people to their food and where it comes from?

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

We heard from SNP back benchers about the need to shorten supply chains to ensure that smaller producers get a look-in and can be successful in the procurement process. Does the cabinet secretary support a wholesale reform of procurement in Scotland?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

We are looking at issues in relation to shortening supply chains, which I will touch on, and we are also considering them through our draft local food strategy.

I will try to address some of the questions that I set out. The bill not only will underpin what we are doing on food policy but will give us the extra tools that we need to maintain momentum and increase the synergy between national and local food policies. The bill is important in helping us to effect the changes that we need to see in our food culture and how we think about food and in the food that we choose to eat. That can be achieved only through long-term planning that links Government with other public bodies such as local authorities and health boards.

I will touch on some of the other issues that were raised today. The right to food is a topic on which strong feelings were expressed. When they gave evidence, some stakeholders, such as Food Train, expressed their disappointment that a delay to incorporating the right to food is a delay in protecting human rights, whereas others, such as Nourish Scotland, said that the right to food needs to be incorporated as soon as possible, while they also understood the reasons for including it in a broader human rights bill.

I absolutely agree that the right to food should be incorporated into Scots law. I do not think that there is any disagreement on that in the chamber. However, as I noted in evidence, given that human rights are indivisible, including the right to adequate food in the human rights bill will provide the best opportunity to address those complex interrelationships, and it will avoid our taking a fragmented approach to the incorporation of human rights.

Incorporation is something that we have committed to. Although the right to adequate food will be put into law as part of future legislation in the current parliamentary session, the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill presents us with the opportunity to make access to healthy, local and nutritious food a reality for all the people of Scotland.

I will touch on a couple of other points that were raised in the debate. Beatrice Wishart made a point about the role of local authorities.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I will not take an intervention at the moment. I need to make progress.

Beatrice Wishart said that local authorities are at different stages in their development of food policy, and she asked what more we can do to assist them. I assure her that we are giving further consideration to how we can help. We will continue to work closely with local authorities and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, including on finance, which was mentioned in the committee.

Brian Whittle, Maurice Golden and other members talked about targets. I understand why there are calls for the inclusion of targets in the bill. The question was discussed extensively during the committee’s evidence sessions. Stakeholders, including the Scottish Food Coalition and the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, among many others, gave examples of targets that they would like to see in the bill. Each proposed food policy target is important, but we firmly believe that the best place for such targets is in our plans, following widespread and inclusive consultation with all stakeholders. The good food nation agenda covers a broad range of policy areas, each of which potentially contributes a basket of targets, which could never all be adequately captured in the bill.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

Not at the moment.

Limiting ourselves to a subset of specific targets would risk good food nation plans focusing narrowly on those targets, to the detriment of other food policy ambitions. That concern was articulated in evidence to the committee. If targets become the focus, the wider ambitions suffer—that point was well articulated by Karen Adam. We also need to retain the flexibility to amend and update targets as we progress, which could not happen easily if there was a need constantly to update primary legislation.

Members asked about parliamentary scrutiny. Linked to the discussion about oversight is the role that the Parliament can play—Beatrice Wishart and other members highlighted that point. I absolutely appreciate the importance of the Parliament’s role in providing scrutiny, and I have taken on board the committee’s recommendations in that regard. I am actively considering how to enhance the role that the Parliament will play in the development and scrutiny of the national good food nation plan.

Members talked about a food commission. Let me respond to the question of whether a new statutory body should be set up in the context of good food nation plans. A wide range of views was expressed in response to the committee’s call for evidence and during the stage 1 evidence sessions. Some organisations, such as the Scottish Food Coalition, made it clear that there must be independent oversight. Others, such as COSLA, do not think that a new body is required to oversee the implementation of the bill.

The evidence that was given to the committee included a range of views on the pros and cons of a new body and its governance and functions, but there was no general agreement on the need for such a body. We committed, as part of the Bute house agreement, to considering the need for a statutory body such as a food commission, and we are considering all the available options for providing the oversight role to deliver the provisions in the bill.

In its first year, the Scottish food commission published an interim report that refreshed the vision of a good food nation. That vision still holds true today. It sits at the heart of the premise of the bill, and it will be reflected in the high-level objectives that the national and local plans will seek to deliver.

One key ambition that is set out is hard to legislate for.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

I must ask you to close, cabinet secretary.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

Other countries are looking to Scotland to learn how to become a good food nation. There is already intense international interest in what Scotland is doing. It was a privilege to have the UN special rapporteur on the right to food give evidence on our bill and its proposals. People are excited by the scale of our ambition and our willingness to legislate to achieve it—something that few nations have done.

I look forward to the next stage of the bill and to our continuing to co-operate and collaborate during stages 2 and 3, so that we arrive at a final bill of which we can all be proud. As we turn our vision into reality, we can hope that other countries will look to Scotland to learn how to become a good food nation.

I invite members to approve the general principles of the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill.