Food and Drink Supply Chain

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 28 April 2022.

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Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government what action it takes to support the food and drink supply chain in order to increase the percentage of Scottish products in the food and drink that it is responsible for supplying to local authorities, national health service boards and other public bodies. (S6O-01008)

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

Public procurement is an important tool that can be used to transform food production and supply, strengthen local economies and tackle climate change. We continue to support the Food for Life programme, which has been funded by the Scottish Government since 2012. It now operates across 18 local authorities, including Glasgow City Council, and ensures that more children in Scotland than ever before have access to fresh, local and sustainable food on their dinner plates.

Our local food strategy consultation had a focus on harnessing the buying power of public sector procurement to encourage better access for local food producers. Feedback from the consultation will be used to inform next steps in that area and will be published in late spring this year.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

Does the cabinet secretary agree that, through supporting and enhancing the public procurement process to ensure that the maximum level of food in our public services is locally produced in the UK and especially in Scotland, the Scottish Government has a major tool with which to tackle food insecurity and better health outcomes, especially in our younger population? Does she agree that, over and above that, doing so could make a major contribution to reducing food miles and, therefore, achieving better environmental outcomes?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I agree with what Brian Whittle has said, which is why the next steps following our consultation on the draft local food strategy will be critical. It is important to recognise what we have seen through the Food for Life programme, which has been really successful.

As Brian Whittle has said, there are many benefits to local procurement—not only health benefits but a strong economic incentive. Some of the independent research that has been conducted on the Food for Life programme has shown that, for every £1 that is spent on it, the social and economic return is more than £4. There are many added benefits from the programme, and it is powerful in tackling some of the severe issues that we see, which is why we are intent on rolling it out to, eventually, encompass all local authorities.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree that it is unfortunate that Brian Whittle’s United Kingdom Government colleagues have negotiated disastrous trade deals that have completely undercut Scotland’s lamb, beef and pork markets and, potentially, made way for cheaper, lower-quality products to be imported? His concern for the food and drink supply chain might be more usefully directed towards those who are actively undermining it.

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I absolutely share the concerns that Alasdair Allan has expressed, particularly on the trade deals that have been negotiated by the UK Government. We know that the deals will undercut Scotland’s high-quality red-meat sector—there is no doubt about that—with both the UK-Australia and UK-New Zealand trade deals facilitating, in essence, the mass import of cheaper and, in many cases, lower-standard food into the UK market.

The Scottish Government has consistently called on the UK Government to ensure that imports of agrifood arising from free trade agreements are produced to equivalent standards to those in Scotland, but, unfortunately, those protections have not been built in. I have written to the UK Government on a number of occasions to express my significant concern with its approach to agriculture in trade deals and, right across Government, my colleagues have done the same.