We support those groups through a £250,000 annual fund that is delivered by Scotland Food & Drink and which allows groups across the country to resource co-ordinator posts within each group. The fund, which leverages match funding from partners, including local authorities, allows for the establishment of an active network of regional ambassadors who work in conjunction with local authorities to promote regional food and drink and tourism strategies. That support has ensured that we have 19 regional food groups operating collaboratively within their regions and collectively in partnership across Scotland.
As the cabinet secretary is aware, the Ayrshire food an a’ that group in my constituency aims to identify and provide new opportunities for food and drink in Ayrshire, including in areas of activity such as local procurement, education, and skills and training.
Does the cabinet secretary share my view that such organisations are vital to continuing the good work that Scotland has accomplished in our cultural approach to food as we strive towards our ambition of being a good food nation?
I absolutely do. It is really clear to me that the regional food groups have an absolutely pivotal role to play in telling Scotland’s fantastic food and drink story. They will also be fundamental to the delivery of the next phase of the ambition 2030 strategy at local and national level.
The work of the Ayrshire food and a’ that group that the member has outlined is exactly the kind of approach that we want to see and encourage. The work that it is undertaking on all the areas that the member talked about, such as education and procurement, will help us build the good food nation and become the good food nation that we want to be. I also envisage the regional food groups playing a key role as we look to develop the national and local good food nation plans set out in the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill. They will also be vital partners in developing our local food strategy, which has been based on our recent consultation.
Being a good food nation means that people should have adequate access to food, too. This week, I heard of a really sad case of an elderly person who ended up in hospital due to starvation, not because they did not have food, but because they did not have the electricity to cook it.
What support has the cabinet secretary given to groups that are trying to help people in that situation access both food and the means to cook it?
The member raises a really important question, and some of that was teased out earlier this week in the stage 1 debate on the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill. We will also be enshrining people’s right to adequate food in Scots law as part of a human rights bill, but we are also trying to give effect to that right through the work that we are undertaking at the moment and through the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill, which provides the legal framework and underpinning in that respect.
However, we are always looking at ways of supporting people. I completely understand the issues that the member has raised, but, unfortunately, we are going to see such situations increasingly often, given the number of people who are—and will continue to be—in fuel poverty. That situation is set only to get worse. Where it is within our capabilities to do so, the Scottish Government is trying to do all that we can to address those issues.