The next item of business is stage 3 proceedings on the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill. In dealing with the amendments, members should have the bill as amended at stage 2, the marshalled list and the groupings of amendments. The division bell will sound and proceedings will be suspended for five minutes for the first division of the afternoon. The period of voting for each division will be up to one minute.
Members who wish to speak in the debate on any group of amendments should press their request-to-speak buttons as soon as possible after I call the first amendment in the group.
Given the fact that the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands will be participating remotely, it was agreed at the Parliamentary Bureau this morning that, if members who have already spoken in the debate wish to make a further contribution after the cabinet secretary has spoken, I would consider allowing that. I would invite members, in those circumstances, to press their request-to-speak buttons at that point and we would go back to the cabinet secretary thereafter.
Members should now refer to the marshalled list of amendments.
It appears strange to me that the Scottish Government chooses to legislate but refuses to spell out in the bill what the purpose of that legislation is.
A purpose clause would provide clarity on the Government’s vision for implementing the legislation. We believe that a good food nation bill must give effect to our human right to food, and I believe that the cabinet secretary does as well. To quote her:
“it is the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill that will put in place the long-term planning that is necessary to make both the practical and cultural changes that we need to make human rights around food a reality for everyone in Scotland.”—[
Official Report, Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee
, 23 February 2022; c 2.]
I welcome that commitment. The amendment seeks to put that aim and purpose in the bill.
The legislation has the potential to be world leading in its approach. At stage 2, the Government rejected a similar amendment, commenting that it had no force in law. Amendment 15 clarifies the matter by stating:
“Regard should be had to” that
“purpose in preparing and implementing good food nation plans.”
The Scottish Government has committed to enshrining our human rights into Scots law, which is a welcome step. I cannot understand why it would refuse to state clearly in the legislation that its purpose is to implement our human right to food. As part of our ratification of international treaties, we already have the right to food. Despite that, we have a growing problem with hunger and malnutrition, which we must address. If we do not implement that right to food, we will store up problems for the future and the cost will be poor health and the resurfacing of diseases due to malnutrition.
Hunger also impacts on younger generations. It is impossible to learn on an empty stomach. I welcome moves towards providing free school meals and policies that address holiday hunger, but those policies are simply sticking plasters on the problem. To deal with hunger, we must deal with its root causes and allow every family to be able to feed their children. The inability to do that is inhumane and soul destroying. With the bill, we have an opportunity to put in train policies that deal with that. I urge members to support amendment 15.
I support amendment 16 in the name of Rachael Hamilton. It provides a detailed summation of what the bill should do and none of its points contradict my amendment 15.
I move amendment 15.
Without ensuring that a good food nation plan has a clearly defined purpose, it is unreasonable to expect that the aims of the bill can be met. Amendment 16 defines the purpose of a good food nation plan in a manner that matches the Scottish Government’s ambition for the bill. Plans should, of course, work for producers, purveyors and consumers, and they also need to work for the environment. The inclusion of those points in my amendment is strongly supported by WWF Scotland and NFU Scotland.
Throughout the passage of the bill, the Scottish Food Coalition has highlighted the need to ensure that those who are tasked with implementing plans are guided by a clear purpose. My amendment seeks to address that need by offering succinct and substantive guidance on the matter, which would help to fulfil the aims of the bill.
I turn to Rhoda Grant’s amendment on the human right to food. Although the Scottish Conservatives are of the opinion that that could be covered in the Scottish Government’s human rights bill, we absolutely understand concerns and reservations about the Government’s pledge to deliver that bill any time soon.
As we agreed at stage 2, when the bill was before the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee, the right to food is important and something that we want to see embedded in Scots law. However, the most appropriate way to do that is through a Scottish human rights bill, in which the right to food will be incorporated alongside other international treaties to ensure that they have legal effect.
The bill, as amended at stage 2, includes provision for ministers to “have regard to” a number of international instruments in relation to the right to food when preparing the Government’s good food nation plan. That will ensure that due attention is given to the right to food until a Scottish human rights bill is passed.
Amendment 16 does not specify whether it applies to the Scottish ministers or to other authorities, so it is unclear where the responsibility for delivery would lie.
Amendment 15 would insert wording stating that the purpose of the bill
“is to give effect to the human right to food through good food nation plans” and that
“Regard should be had to this purpose in preparing and implementing good food nation plans.”
At stage 2, the member lodged a similar amendment containing a purpose provision in relation to the right to food. I did not support that amendment because it did not have a clear legal effect. Amendment 15 has a legal effect in that it sets out a duty that
“Regard should be had to this purpose in preparing and implementing good food nation plans.”
However, I have other concerns about the amendment. It would have the effect that the right to food would be the sole focus of the bill, which is not the intention. The bill is intended to cover the wide-ranging nature of the good food nation vision, not to focus on one specific aspect of food policy. Furthermore, it is not clear what amendment 15 would add to the bill’s current provisions on the right to adequate food in, for example, section 1A, on principles, and section 3, on consideration of international instruments.
We have also committed to incorporating human rights treaties in domestic law through the human rights bill, which will be introduced in the current parliamentary session. That bill will give effect to a wide range of internationally recognised human rights in Scots law, as far as possible within devolved competence, including the right to adequate food as part of the overall right to an adequate standard of living. The proposed human rights bill is the appropriate place to address the complex interrelationships between the rights and obligations across four treaties in a single, coherent and integrated framework.
For those reasons, I ask members not to support amendment 15, in Rhoda Grant’s name.
Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 16 also sets out a purpose provision. As I set out in relation to Rhoda Grant’s amendment 15, my view is that any provision must have a clear legal effect, and amendment 16 does not. No duty would be placed on the Scottish ministers or relevant authorities.
At stage 2, I responded to similar views, expressed by stakeholders and committee members, that the bill should include high-level objectives to reflect the broad vision and ambitions for the good food nation policy. The approach that was taken through the amendments that were lodged in my name meant that, instead of our setting out a purpose provision, as is proposed by Rachael Hamilton, a set of high-level principles were included in the bill in a format that would give them legal effect. The Scottish ministers and relevant authorities “must have regard to” those principles when developing good food nation plans, and the high-level nature of the principles provides clarity as to what is being asked of them.
For those reasons, I urge members not to support amendments 15 and 16.
I am obviously very disappointed in the response from the Government and, indeed, from the Greens. Their manifesto stated that the bill should include the right to food—how quickly they have ditched their principles for a sniff of power. It is a disgrace.
Stakeholders have called for the right to food to be included, but the Scottish Government is not listening. The right to food should be enshrined in the bill, but the Government has shown itself to be absolutely disinterested in taking steps to deal with hunger and starvation that is evident here and now in Scotland. At stage 2, the cabinet secretary stated clearly that having “regard to” principles would not bind ministers. Therefore, the excuses that she has given not to support amendment 15 are spurious at best.
I urge members to look to their conscience and vote for amendment 15.
Amendments 47, 49, 50 and 52 seek to give the Parliament more time than the 28 days proposed in the bill to scrutinise the national good food nation plan.
Amendment 49 requires the Scottish ministers to lay the proposed plan before the Scottish Parliament for a period of 60 days, of which no fewer than 30 must be sitting days. At stage 2, I lodged an amendment for the period to be 120 days, based on the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019. The minister raised concerns about the possible impact on the timetable to produce a plan and agreed to work with me after stage 2. As a result of that, and following discussions, amendment 49 is a compromise between the current requirement to lay the plan for 28 days, and my previous amendment seeking 120 days.
Amendments 47, 50 and 52 are simply consequential amendments to amendment 49. For example, amendment 50 makes changes to section 1B(1) to provide that the Scottish ministers must have regard to the things that are listed in section 1(1)(b) during the consideration period rather than before the expiry of the consideration period. Amendment 52 amends section 1B to remove sections 1B(4) and 1B(5), which relate to the 28-day period, and amendment 47 amends section 1B(2) of the bill, to specify the subsection of section 1B that contains the details of the length of the consideration period.
Concern about the lack of opportunity for Parliament to scrutinise the plan was a recurring theme in stakeholder responses and the committee’s report. I therefore urge members to support the amendments to ensure that Parliament is given a period beyond the planned period of 28 days to effectively hold the Scottish Government to account on how it delivers our collective ambitions to be a good food nation through any proposed national good food nation plan.
I move amendment 47.
As Colin Smyth has just said, we both lodged amendments at stage 2 that would have introduced a requirement to lay a draft version of the national good food nation plan before the Scottish Parliament for a period of consideration. My amendment set out a period of 28 days, which was agreed by the committee, and Colin Smyth’s amendment set out a period of 120 days. I agreed to work with Colin Smyth to agree on a compromise, which is why I fully support his amendments today to require a consideration period of 60 days.
Amendment 47 agreed to.
The Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill represents an opportunity to tackle some of the most pressing issues that Scotland faces, and I have no doubt that the Scottish Government would agree that tackling child poverty is one of those issues. I know that Monica Lennon has also lodged amendments to achieve similar aims, which my colleagues and I will support.
Tackling child poverty has taken on added importance given the global inflationary pressures that families around the world are facing. Although the UK Government continues to implement measures to alleviate those pressures, amendment 17 would pull on a lever that is available to the Scottish Government to go even further. It would include tackling child poverty as an issue that the bill must have regard to. That should include
“the delivery of free school breakfasts in ... Scottish schools.”
I have also lodged a similar amendment, which seeks the same aim regarding
“the free supply of milk to children in pre-school”,
nursery and primary school settings. Monica Lennon moved that amendment at stage 2, but it was disagreed to.
I have a comment to make on Ross Greer, the Green Party’s education spokesperson. I presume that he had not had his Weetabix that morning when he made the comment that he did about initiatives to provide free school meals. It is regrettable that he did so.
I move amendment 17.
My amendments in this group aim to ensure that the Scottish Government declares the outcomes of the bill; that they are fully understood and resourced to make it as simple as possible for food producers and local authorities with regard to food preparation contracts and hospital contracts; and that those outcomes are as connected as possible. The legislation should connect up the relevant parts to make the bill’s asks of our food producers, local authorities and hospitals as straightforward as they can be.
Amendment 3 states that the good food nation plan must set out how a relevant authority will ensure that at least 60 per cent of the food that it procures is sourced within the United Kingdom, except in exceptional circumstances, and that free school meals will be locally sourced.
For so many reasons, that has to be the direction of travel of the bill. There are health reasons, given that Scotland has the unwanted tag of the unhealthiest nation in Europe, with a reducing life expectancy, which is already lower than in the rest of the United Kingdom. Regular, fresh and locally produced food can be a huge step towards addressing that health inequality.
With regard to the rural economy, we charge our farmers with producing some of the highest-quality food in the world. They have the highest standards of animal welfare and we give them custodianship of the countryside and ask them to pay the living wage. We must surely reward them by purchasing that produce at a fair price. To help us with our climate change targets, farmers are unfairly given such a hard time on emissions and climate change. Why, therefore, are we importing so much of our food for public procurement contracts, with all the air miles and road miles that are associated with that ridiculous behaviour?
We have hospitals that serve food that is procured, prepared and pre-packaged in Wales and driven up the M6 to be reheated, with over 50 per cent of it wasted. Where is the common sense in that? Recent events have highlighted all too starkly that we must protect and develop our own food security. If we do not support our own food producers right now, we risk losing them for good, necessitating further imports.
That brings me to amendment 2. If we are going to require councils and relevant authorities to develop plans to improve local procurement and good food standards, we should be making it easier for them to attain those standards. When I first entered Parliament, the Scottish Government’s central Scotland Excel contract procured just 16 per cent of its food from Scotland. It imported chicken from Thailand, root vegetables and fruit from Europe, potato powder from Ireland and many dairy products from abroad. Those are all foodstuffs that are produced in Scotland, and we have the capacity to increase production if demand dictates it.
That poor record has hardly improved in the intervening six years, to the Parliament’s shame. Making a bold statement and taking the lead by creating an Excel contract that procures at least 60 per cent of its food from the UK, and preferably Scotland, would demonstrate serious intent, and would allow local councils and authorities an easy route to hitting their targets.
Amendments 2 and 3 would put an improvement in fresh food standards in schools and hospitals, for which amendment 1 provides, well within reach. That is surely an outcome that we would all want. The bill must contain an educational element that highlights and improves food literacy regarding where food comes from and how we process it. Too many people today have no idea how food is produced and processed. If we are to get buy-in from consumers, that needs to be dealt with.
A third of all food is wasted. If food waste were a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the United States of America. It takes a land mass the size of China to produce the food that we throw away. The most critical point, for me, is that if we wasted just 25 per cent less than we currently waste, we could feed the world’s starving people.
That is why I am asking that we reduce the rate of food waste from more than 30 per cent to less than 20 per cent by 2025. It can be done. A school in East Ayrshire used to throw away 40 per cent of its food. One of the teachers took the unused food, put it into meal-sized boxes and froze it. Unused food from the day before is left on a table and children are allowed to lift it at 4 o’clock. The idea is to protect the environment and no criteria have been put in place. There is no food waste at that school now.
Finally, we must process food closer to home. We should not send food down south and further afield for processing and packaging. It is about health, the local economy and the environment. We do not process much of our produce in Scotland, so to increase capacity by 50 per cent by 2030 would not be much of an ask. However, it would be a statement of intent that would encourage the private sector to grow capacity.
Members should remember that everything that I am talking about comes against a backdrop in which East Ayrshire procures 75 per cent of its food locally. It can be done.
The amendments in my name in this group are enabling amendments that would put in place building blocks to help us to hit the targets that we want to hit. They are eminently sensible and achievable. Not to agree to them would be to pass the buck to local authorities and abdicate responsibility. Let us make laws that enable change. I ask members to support the amendments in my name.
I reiterate what I have said throughout the process. This is a framework bill: it sets a framework for the good food nation plans. Many of the amendments in this group provide for specific details or matters that plans would have to contain.
For example, amendment 64, in Monica Lennon’s name, is on universal free school meals. I thank Monica Lennon for meeting me to discuss her intention to lodge such an amendment at stage 3. The issue is of great importance to her, as it is to me and to other members of the Parliament.
Our programme for government set out our ambitions to provide free school breakfasts and lunches to local authority primary school pupils in Scotland all year round, and to all children in state-funded special schools in Scotland. We have made significant progress against that commitment: Scotland offers the most generous provision of free school lunches in the UK, and local authority pupils in primary classes 1 to 5 and in special schools already benefit from the offer of universal free school meals.
We are fully committed to the expansion of free school meals over the course of this parliamentary session and we will continue to work with local authorities to plan for that over the next academic year.
I will come back to the detail of amendment 64. First, I will give my view on other amendments in the group. My view on putting outcomes, indicators and targets in the bill remains the same: it is challenging to ensure that such measures are and remain up to date and meaningful if they are set out in primary legislation.
There is also a risk that future food plans would focus on those targets and neglect other, equally important considerations. We want the plans to cover the whole of the good food nation vision, which is wide ranging. For that reason, I am firmly of the view that the place for the level of detail that is envisaged is in the plans themselves. That is also the considered view of the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee in its stage 1 report. The committee thought that the bill should contain high-level objectives but not detailed targets and outcomes.
I lodged amendment 18 in response to concerns from some stakeholders and committee members that there is no clear recognition of the role that the private sector plays in the food supply chain. The good food nation plans will contain policies and initiatives that inevitably involve or affect the private sector in different ways. Amendment 18 will require the Scottish ministers to set out, in the national good food nation plan, how they intend to ensure that implementation of the policies in section 1(3)(c) is informed by the views of the private sector.
I want to address concerns about amendment 18 that have been voiced by some stakeholders in recent days. I want to be clear that it is not about giving food companies a hand in creating Government policy. Rather, it is about making sure that we properly take into account the views of those who grow, process, transport and sell food on how we implement the policies that are decided by the Government. Given the significant role that businesses of all sizes play in the food supply chain, no Government policy would succeed without at least understanding the views of business on how such a policy would work in practice. In essence, the duty is to garner those views, not necessarily to act on them.
I also draw members’ attention to the definition of the “food business sector” in section 14(1). It includes everyone that is involved in the food industry, regardless of size or role. The aim is to recognise the role that the private sector plays across the supply chain and to provide a mechanism by which the views of the food business sector will inform the implementation of the policies in the plan.
Amendment 20, in my name, would amend section 1(5) to clarify that the requirement to have regard to the list of high-level outcomes in that subsection applies when determining the content of the national good food nation plan, in so far as that is required by section 1(3).
Brian Whittle’s amendments 2 and 3 would place procurement targets in the bill. For example, amendment 2 would require the Scottish Government’s “Central Scotland Excel contract” to
“procure at least 60% of food from within the UK by 2025”.
The amendments are similar to amendments that were lodged at stage 2 and which were not agreed to. As I set out at stage 2, strict rules on procurement may mean that the intended aim cannot be achieved. The trade and co-operation agreement with the EU contains a duty of non-discrimination in procurement. Amendments 2 and 3 are not compatible with our international obligations, and that is why I am unable to support them. However, the Scottish Government supports the use of procurement to improve the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of our areas, and we promote and facilitate the procurement of healthy, fresh and seasonal produce in contracts for food and catering.
Amendment 1, in Brian Whittle’s name, sets out a series of outcomes that the national good food nation plan would have to include, including targets on food waste and food processing capacity.
Rachael Hamilton’s amendments 48 and 65 make reference to Food for Life accreditation, setting out that that should be one of the indicators used to assess progress in achieving the outcomes of the good food nation plans. Amendment 66 would require local authorities to set out in their good food nation plans their plans to achieve accreditation under the Food for Life scheme.
I absolutely support the aims and objectives of the Food for Life programme, and I acknowledge the great work that has been done through it, which means that 18 local authorities now have Food for Life accreditation. However, it is not appropriate to set out such a level of detail in the bill. The process of obtaining Food for Life accreditation is a policy initiative that is best dealt with at the local authority level. Local authorities will set out the indicators against which progress against the outcomes that are set out in their plans will be measured. Given that the good food nation plans are yet to be drafted and, in particular, that consultation on local plans has not yet taken place, setting out an indicator in legislation is problematic.
I also bring to members’ attention the fact that the reference in Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 65 should be to subsection (4)(b) of section 7, rather than to subsection 3(b), as the amendment states.
My view on amendments 1, 48, 65 and 66 is as I have set out throughout the bill process. The bill is a framework, and the appropriate place for such a level of detail is in the plans themselves. I therefore ask members not to support those amendments.
Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 63 would require a relevant authority to set out how it
“intends to work with other relevant authorities in its area to share good practice and to secure the achievement of the outcomes for individuals in receipt of social care.”
However, it is not clear how the amendment would work in practice.
For example, the wording “in its area” is difficult to interpret. Does it mean working with relevant authorities within exactly the same area, with those whose boundaries overlap the area, or with those that are adjacent to the local authority? The amendment includes wording that is specific to social care, and it is not clear whether the sharing of good practice is a general requirement or is specific to social care. For those reasons, I ask members not to support amendment 63.
Several amendments relate to the provision of food in schools. Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 17 would add to section 1 a requirement for the Scottish ministers to set out
“the policies which” they
“intend to pursue in order to reduce child poverty, including the delivery of free school breakfasts in all Scottish schools.”
Section 1(5) of the bill, as amended at stage 2, already requires that when
“determining the content of the national good food nation plan, the Scottish ministers must have regard ... to the scope for food-related issues to affect outcomes in relation to ... child poverty.”
The policies to reduce child poverty will be set out in the plan itself, which, as I previously set out, is the appropriate place for the detail of those policies.
The wording of amendment 17 would require Scottish ministers to set out how they would ensure the provision of free breakfasts for all schools in Scotland, including those that would not be under the control of local authorities. I query how that would target those children who are in most need of that support.
Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 19 would require the national good food nation plan to
“set out how the Scottish ministers will ensure the free supply of milk to children in pre-school, nurseries and primary schools.”
The Scottish Government has committed to delivering a universal Scottish free school meal scheme to local authority primary and special schools, and to developing a pilot in local authority secondary schools. The wording of amendment 19 would also require Scottish ministers to set out how they would ensure the supply of free milk to primary schools not under the control of local authorities, which is outwith the scope of our current commitment.
As I have set out previously, this is a framework bill and it would not be appropriate to be prescriptive in the bill about which specific policies should be contained in the plans. Monica Lennon lodged similar amendments in relation to free school milk at stage 2, but they were not agreed to for the same reasons that I have just outlined.
Beatrice Wishart’s amendment 29 would require local authorities, when formulating their good food nation plans, to ensure
“flexibility in meal provision” and, in particular, not to
“restrict the ability of residents in any school hostels operated by the local authority to make choices in relation to their meals.”
Evening meals that are provided in hostels that are run by local authorities must comply with the nutrient standards that are set out in the Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2020, which help ensure that young people are provided with an appropriate amount of energy and key nutrients to support their healthy growth and development.
The food and drink standards that are set out in the regulations also apply at mealtimes and are designed to limit the amount of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar that is provided as part of a balanced diet. The regulations are already flexible enough to allow school hostel caterers to design menus that meet the needs and preferences of hostel residents.
In relation to Brian Whittle’s amendment 3, which would require that
“free school meals provided by the local authority are locally sourced”,
I refer to my earlier comments about the strict rules around procurement, but also to the good work that has already been carried out under the Food for Life accreditation scheme, which promotes the use of local food. That work is already under way and there are plans to run a pilot programme that will look at expanding Food for Life into the wider public sector.
I turn to Monica Lennon’s amendment 64, which would require
“a relevant authority’s good food nation plan” to
“set out how the relevant authority intends to ensure the provision of universal free school meals for all children and young people ... high uptake of universal free school meals ... free of stigma” and “high-quality, nutritious food” during school holidays.
However, careful consideration is required so that such a requirement, which might not achieve the desired aim, is not added to legislation. As I have noted throughout the bill process, the bill is a framework bill and the place for the detail is in the good food nation plans themselves.
I do not believe that the wording of the amendment that Monica Lennon lodged achieves the intended aim. The proposed amendment applies to all relevant authorities, including local authorities, health boards and all bodies that are specified in regulations under section 7(2), which would have to include in their plans how they intend to ensure the provision of universal free school meals. However, health boards have no role in the provision of school meals to pupils and, as such, amendment 64 would require them to explain how they would do something that they ultimately have no responsibility to do.
In relation to local authorities, the amendment is not just restricted to the pupils at schools under the authority’s control, so it would require that aspect of the plan to extend to independent schools and grant-aided schools.
Monica Lennon’s amendment 64 would not impose a direct duty on a relevant authority to provide universal free school meals, but it would require a relevant authority to include in its plan how it intends to ensure the provision of universal free school meals and other matters that are set out in paragraphs (b) and (c) of the amendment.
Where legislation seeks to impose a legal duty on a person or body, the duty should be express, clear and unambiguous, in relation to not only the fact that a duty is being imposed but the terms of the duty. A duty could not be created by an amendment in the proposed way, which would require relevant authorities to explain in their plan how they would ensure something that they currently have no duty to do.
Paragraph (c), on the provision of meals during school holidays, would ensure something that is not yet a right in Scots law. The requirement in paragraph (b) to set out how the authority would ensure the “high uptake” of free school meals and how that would be done “free of stigma” duplicates the existing legal duty to provide free school meals.
There are duties on education authorities in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, under section 53A, on “promotion of school lunches”, and section 53B, on
“protection of identity of pupils receiving school lunches”.
In contrast with the 1980 act, there is no definition in amendment 64 of “school meal” and no reference to free school meals being provided to pupils in attendance at schools. Instead, it refers to “children and young people”. Therefore, it is really unclear what is intended. For example, should the provision extend to independent schools and the home education of children and young people? How does it relate to the 1980 act duties?
I hope that I have explained the significant issues with those amendments. I strongly urge members not to accept them, for the reasons that I have set out.
Amendment 29, which is in my name, would require local authorities to ensure that their good food nation plans allow
“for flexibility in meal provision and, in particular,” that they do not
“restrict the ability of residents of any school hostels operated by the local authority to make choices in relation to their meals.”
Amendment 29 has been created in order to avoid situations such as have been brought to my attention, in which school-hostel residents have felt restricted by the prescriptive nature of meal provision. In school hostels, which are a home from home for many pupils, all meals of the day are provided and follow school meals regulations, which can lead to pupils feeling that their meals are too prescriptive and do not allow flexibility for their choices, or independence. Being overly prescriptive about meal provision in school hostels can remove enjoyment and the social elements of meals, and can result in pupils rejecting hostel meals and instead buying unhealthier alternatives elsewhere.
As we are aware, habits that are created early in life are hard to break. It is an irony that guidance to ensure healthy food provision is driving learners towards unhealthy options.
Providing food must not only be about ensuring nutrition; it should also be about the social and cultural aspects of food, as well as individual preferences. Amendment 29 would ensure that those issues would be taken into account in settings where all meals are provided by the relevant authority—in particular, in school hostels.
I am sorry that the cabinet secretary is unwell and unable to join us in the chamber. I hope that she feels better soon.
I will limit my remarks to amendment 64. Labour members will support all the amendments in the group. I know that we are pushed for time today.
The inspiration behind amendment 64 is no secret; it is the Scottish Trades Union Congress’s trailblazing “Food for thought” campaign, which is about making real the rights of all young people to food, education and fun. The campaign is widely supported by MSPs and political parties, all trade unions, anti-poverty charities and children and young people’s organisations.
Amendment 64 would require the good food nation plan of a relevant authority to set out how it intends to ensure
“(a) the provision of universal free school meals for all children and young people” and
(b) high uptake” of meals in ways that are
“inclusive ... and free of stigma”.
It would also require the authority to set out how it intends to ensure
“(c) the fulfilment of children and young people’s right to high-quality, nutritious food” during holiday periods.
Building on my child poverty amendments 74 and 79, which were agreed to at stage 2, amendment 64 seeks to strengthen section 7 of the bill. As we have heard, section 7 places a requirement on public bodies to produce good food nation plans. Section 7 of the bill, as amended at stage 2, makes it clear that that relates to areas for which public bodies have responsibility. We are not trying to throw in things for which public bodies have no responsibility. In the bill, it is quite clear that there would not be duplication of efforts.
We should all agree that building a good food nation must start with getting things right for all children and young people. Universal provision of free school meals is a crucial policy mechanism that would help to alleviate poverty, mitigate food insecurity and support efforts to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap. It would also be critically important in embedding whole-school community approaches to nutrition.
Including universal provision of free school meals in the good food nation plan would build on the Scottish Government’s very welcome commitment to incorporate into Scots law the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Expansion of universal school meals provision would also help to deliver the Scottish Government’s aspirations to significantly reduce child poverty and to close the attainment gap, in addition to its aspiration that Scotland become a good food nation by 2025.
I think that it is strange that the bill is silent on the rights of children and young people to universal provision of free school meals. In advance of the debate, members will have received a letter from Roz Foyer, who is the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress. The STUC represents more than half a million workers in Scotland, including teachers—some of whom are having to feed schoolchildren out of their own pockets—and the workers who staff our school canteens. It is important that we remember that.
I am grateful to Mairi Gougeon for her time and her willingness to engage on the issues. However, I feel that by not supporting amendment 64 the Scottish Government is missing a trick. We might have good intentions and good policies, but if we do not put them into action we are not helping people who need such help.
Just last week, at First Minister’s question time, we were reminded of the rise in hidden hunger that is happening in our schools right now. Young people have told the Scottish children’s charity Aberlour that their friends who are not eligible for free school meals are going hungry at lunch time, while others are deliberately saving up their lunch money to give it back to their parents. That is just shameful.
It is positive that Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Liberal Democrats are backing amendment 64. When I listen to Scotland’s children and young people they say that they want all members of the Scottish Parliament to work together to make their rights real. Ross Greer, who is not in the chamber at the moment, might think that it is somehow a disgrace that parties would work together; I think that it is positive that we do so now. I know that today’s vote might not reflect it, but we are now in the position where everybody in Parliament wants to expand universal provision of free school meals beyond nursery and primary schools and into our secondary schools. The issues and challenges do not end at the gates of our primary schools.
It is regrettable that the Government and its coalition partners did not have the foresight to bring such issues within the scope of the bill; it is always more challenging for back benchers and Opposition members to do so. However, I take at face value the good will that the cabinet secretary has expressed. My plea is that if members decide not to support amendment 64 they recognise the existence of cross-cutting issues on food, education and the rights of children and young people, and that every minister in Government redoubles their efforts to ensure that children are not going without food.
We must question whether we are doing all that we can. If we vote against the amendment, we will not be doing all that we can and will have to come back again, tomorrow and the next day to try to do better. That is what children and young people are demanding from each and every one of us. The STUC is saying, with one clear voice, that workers who staff our schools and look after children across Scotland will no longer accept crumbs from the Government’s table. We have to do more. We must start focusing on what we can do instead of what we cannot do.
I welcome the feedback from the cabinet secretary and I fully understand the need for legislation to be well drafted and for it not to have unintended consequences. When I met the cabinet secretary yesterday, I said that some of the objections that I was hearing had parallels to objections to period poverty legislation before the political will for it existed. I ask Green Party members to reflect on that.
This should not be about party politics and who lodges the amendment: we have time to get this right. People should look to their consciences; I know that there are back-bench members who really want to back amendment 64, so it will be a real shame if they are pressured by their party whips to do otherwise.
In the absence of an opportunity to intervene on the cabinet secretary’s lengthy response, I am grateful for this opportunity to ask her some questions. Amendment 18, which is in the name of the cabinet secretary, makes provision for the implementation of policies for the national good food plan to be “informed by” the private food business sector. I do not have an issue with that, but perhaps the cabinet secretary can explain why other sectors that have interests in the policy have been excluded from having a statutory footing. Should not sectors such as those that are concerned with social wellbeing, climate change, wildlife, the natural environment, animal welfare and workers’ rights have the same statutory rights as the private food sector?
It is deeply disappointing that the cabinet secretary continues to oppose the bill having a small number of high-level objectives and measurable indicators linked to outcomes, which would better enable monitoring and scrutiny of progress. The Scottish Parliament has enacted several bills in the past few years that include targets and outcomes, including the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 and the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017. More recently, the Government published the draft circular economy bill, which would enable secondary legislation to set targets.
Will the cabinet secretary explain why food legislation does not require statutory targets to ensure that the Scottish Government’s targets are reached and that food security is delivered across Scotland, while for other areas required targets are included in the relevant legislation?
I am sympathetic to the aims of the amendments to expand provision of free food to all school-age children. It would be an important step towards closing the attainment gap. However, we have a responsibility to ensure that amendments that are agreed to in Parliament can be put into effect.
I will start by addressing amendment 64, which is in the name of Monica Lennon. It would introduce a blanket approach to free school meals provision, including providing food to people who attend fee-paying schools at which, arguably, there is not a need for such provision. As drafted, the amendment would also apply to all relevant authorities under the bill—even those that have no role in provision of school meals.
It is unclear to whom the duties would apply. Because the issue was not raised with the committee during evidence gathering at stage 1, we have not collectively agreed recommendations on the issue. I am disappointed that, instead, Labour is raising the issue at the 11th hour, when time to agree a constructive way forward has run out.
It is not the 11th hour. There is a campaign by the STUC that the Scottish Greens signed up to prior to last year’s election, and which you made a flagship commitment on in your manifesto. I absolutely welcomed that: it is a shame that your party has forgotten all about that.
I am sorry. It is a shame that the Green Party has forgotten all that.
Is Ariane Burgess now saying that the Scottish Green Party’s position has changed? As a party, are they now in favour of means testing? What in the amendment or bill relates to independent schools? Which public body has responsibility for independent schools?
I am proud that the Scottish Greens have already taken steps to widen free school meals entitlement, as we had committed to doing. That includes using budget negotiations to expand free school meals provision from all pupils in primary 1 to P3 to all pupils in P1 to P5, which covers more than 120,000 children. We have also provided councils with more than £30 million this year to upgrade school catering facilities ahead of further expansion, and we will continue to work constructively with the Government to secure further progress.
I turn briefly to the other amendments in the group. As this is a framework bill, Rachael Hamilton’s amendments 17 and 19 on school breakfast and milk provision are at a level of detail that would best be placed in the good food nation plans, rather than in the bill. I also note that the Scottish Government has already committed to delivering a universal free school milk scheme to local authorities and special schools, and will pilot a roll-out in secondary schools. Amendments 48, 65 and 68 also include detail on accreditation schemes that would be better placed in plans than they would in legislation.
Brian Whittle’s amendment 1 in the group would insert a number of targets in the bill. As was discussed at stage 2, they are problematic in framework legislation of this kind. In addition, as they touch on trade issues, we must be careful about how provisions in the bill would interact with World Trade Organization rules and the United Kingdom’s trade agreements with the European Union.
We will support the cabinet secretary’s amendments 18 and 20, which will ensure that good food nation plans are realistic and informed by people who work in the sector, including farmers and crofters and people who work in the supply chain, hospitality and retail. Since the private sector accounts for the vast majority of food supply and will be impacted by the plans, it is crucial that we involve it from the start of the journey to the good food nation plans.
No, I will not take an intervention; I am winding up.
Finally, Beatrice Wishart’s amendment 29 seeks to ensure flexibility in meals provision in hostels that are local authority run. That is already provided for in the nutrition requirements in the Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2020, so we will not support it.
As we are nearing the agreed time limit, I am prepared to exercise my power under rule 9.8.4A of standing orders to allow the debate on this group to continue beyond the limit in order to avoid the debate being unreasonably curtailed.
The Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill was such a good opportunity to tackle the health and education issues that have plagued the Scottish Government, to support the rural economy and to commit to tackling climate change. The Scottish Government is asking local authorities to come up with good food nation plans, but in the cabinet secretary’s response, she indicated that it is unwilling to make uncontentious amendments to the bill—uncontentious amendments that are supported by NFU Scotland.
I understand procurement law well, and there is nothing in my amendments that contravenes that law. The fact of the matter is that, for years, East Ayrshire Council has been doing exactly what my amendments ask for, so the procurement law argument does not hold water. The reality is that we could amend the bill and use secondary legislation to change anything that we needed to change in future, but the Scottish Government is risk averse, and, without tangible outcomes, there is no way for us to measure the bill’s success or otherwise. The Government is abdicating responsibility; as for the Greens, they have abdicated all their responsibilities and all their principles.
The Scottish Government has missed a huge opportunity here, and it will leave the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill a shell of what it should have been.
I will try to cover most of the points that have been raised. Reflecting on the issues that Colin Smyth raised, my amendments are certainly not about excluding others. I recognise that all the initiatives that we will take forward will involve the private sector in practice. It is important to remember that everyone will have an opportunity to input into the development of the food plans, and we have already said that we want our consultation to be as broad and inclusive as possible, so the opportunity for people to feed in will be there. It is also important to remember that we lodged amendment 18 because we listened to and took account of the evidence that the committee took during its consideration of the bill.
On outcomes and indicators, as was stated in the committee and agreed to by the committee, the bill itself is not the place for the targets and outcomes that we want to see. Some of those that were proposed at stage 2 would have become out of date very quickly. We are not averse to looking at outcomes and indicators and how we monitor our progress, but the detail of that should be in the good food nation plans.
To go back to Monica Lennon’s points, I really welcome the discussions that I have had with her on the amendments that she has lodged. We have had some really constructive discussions, including with trade union representatives. I do not think that we are far apart in what we are trying to achieve, but I have specific issues with particular amendments that have been lodged, which I have outlined.
I hope that I have been really clear about the commitment that we have made on the expansion of free school meals. The Government has enacted that and driven it forward, and we are committed to working with our local authority partners to take it further forward. I hope that members across the chamber can take some assurance from that. However, there are particular issues with the amendments that Monica Lennon has lodged, as there are with Brian Whittle’s amendments. For those reasons, I urge members not to support them.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I was unclear what the protocol was, given that the cabinet secretary is attending remotely.
Back in 2016, the Scottish National Party first put a commitment to the good food nation in its manifesto, but it failed to deliver. In 2021, the regurgitated good food nation proposals suggested that we would create a single market brand for Scotland called sustainability Scotland. The SNP was also going to create a single independent Scottish food agency. However, we have heard over and over today that the bill is a framework bill. Why has the cabinet secretary failed to deliver on the aspirations of the stakeholders that have engaged in the belief that the bill would be transformational? The bill in front of us is not fit for purpose.
I welcome what the cabinet secretary has said and its tone, but there is a need for action. I know that she has raised a concern about children who are home schooled and how things would work if the issue that I have raised was covered in the good food plan. Is it the Government’s view that children who are home schooled should be excluded from accessing universal free school meals? We know from our constituency mailbags that many children are home schooled because they have additional support needs and the schools have not been properly resourced to meet their needs. What will the Government do in the meantime to support those children if they are experiencing hunger?
I will touch on that last point first. Obviously, we do not want to see any child or young person going hungry. That is why we have taken a number of actions to combat the poverty and extreme poverty that we know that people are currently facing. However, there are particular issues with the amendments that have been lodged, which is why we are unable to support them. That said, the commitment in relation to the provision of free school meals is still there.
Finlay Carson raised some of the other manifesto commitments that the Government is still committed to taking forward. I completely disagree with his comment that the bill is “not fit for purpose”. We have listened to the evidence that the committee has taken and have lodged a number of amendments that take into account the evidence that it heard and the recommendations in its report. I simply disagree with Finlay Carson’s statement.
I will press amendment 17.
I would like to respond to the cabinet secretary’s comments, particularly those that she made on amendments 48, 65, 66 and 63.
On amendment 48 and the food for life scheme, I cannot understand why the SNP Government will not support children to eat their five a day in school settings by encouraging all schools and all local authorities to adopt the whole-school approach and embedding that in the bill, because we know that independent evaluation has shown that pupils in food-for-life-engaged schools are twice as likely to eat their five a day compared with children in matched comparison schools. It would be good to hear why the SNP will not do that, because I do not believe that the reasons that the cabinet secretary has given mean that it is problematic.
I believe that amendments 17 and 19 would strengthen the actions to tackle child poverty, alongside the pilot that the Government has put forward for developing free school meals.
With regard to Ariane Burgess’s comments, there was plenty of time in the committee process to have addressed some of the issues that she raised, if the Greens are so passionate about ensuring that children do not go hungry.
On amendment 63, I do not see the problems with the overlapping of local authority boundaries that the cabinet secretary mentioned, because those could be overcome. Amendments on the importance of the outcomes for individuals in receipt of social care were lodged at stage 2. We know that there is a national care strategy coming along, so why does the cabinet secretary not believe that the provision of food is integral to social care, whether it is early years provision, at-home care, crisis care or residential care? It is important that she recognises that the bill should have teeth and ambition but, unfortunately, that has not been delivered by the Scottish Government.
I reiterate the points that I made earlier in response to Rachael Hamilton. It is not clear from her amendments what they seek to achieve. It is because of that lack of clarity in the language that has been used in the drafting of the amendments that we are not able to support them.
The result of the division is: For 46, Against 64, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 48 disagreed to.
My amendments on the matters that are to be taken into account when the Government or relevant authorities are preparing good food nation plans seek to allow the bill to be updated when required. That will ensure that the bill can be expanded to adapt to developments. The past two years have been a lesson in how rapidly the world can change, and it is vital that the bills that we pass in the Parliament are suitably adaptable in certain areas to keep up with that. Important legislation should not be allowed to stagnate, and my amendments will provide the necessary flexibility to prevent that from happening.
Amendment 14 would ensure that any updates to the matters that are to be taken into account when preparing plans were subject to the affirmative procedure.
I move amendment 4.
Rachael Hamilton lodged similar amendments at stage 2, and at that time I set out my concerns regarding their particular wording and asked the member to work with me to identify an alternative wording. I thank her for doing so ahead of stage 3.
Amendments 4, 5, 8 and 9 would adjust the text in sections 1(5) and 7(6) to add further clarity, so that there would be a need to have regard to the specific matters that are listed, “among other things”. Amendment 10 would amend section 7(6) to add the phrase
“any other matter specified by the Scottish Ministers” to the list of high-level outcomes, which would allow flexibility to add other matters to that list in the future.
I support the amendments and encourage members to support them, too.
I will move amendment 21 and speak to it and to amendments 22, 27, 30, 31 and 34.
Amendments 21 and 30 would ensure that regard must be had to the principles that are outlined not only when preparing plans but when implementing them. Amendment 21 refers to section 1A, which places duties on the Scottish ministers, and amendment 30 refers to section 7A, which refers to health boards, local authorities and other specified public authorities
One of the principles is
“the fact that adequate food is a human right (as part of the right to an adequate standard of living set out in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) and essential to the realisation of other human rights”.
Amendments 27 and 34 would strengthen that principle in sections 1A and 7A respectively by adding the phrase
“how the plan can be used to ensure this right is implemented” to ensure that the plans are used to ensure that the right is implemented in Scotland. As I said, the Government has acknowledged that the bill is a vehicle for ensuring that people have access to their human rights, and therefore it should ensure implementation. Amendments 27 and 34 would do just that.
Amendments 22 and 31 would place a duty on the Scottish ministers to have due regard to good food nation plans, which again would strengthen this part of the bill.
We are supportive of the other amendments in the group, although I ask Rachael Hamilton for clarity on her amendments 24 to 26. It is well understood that processed food can be cheap but laden with fat, salt and sugar and therefore detrimental to health. However, some foods, especially plant-based foods, can be highly processed when used as a meat substitute, and it could be argued that those foods are still nutritious and essential for those who have a vegetarian or vegan diet. I would like to support amendments 24 to 26, because I believe that the sentiments are right, but I need reassurance from Rachael Hamilton that they will not have unintended consequences.
I move amendment 21.
My amendments 23 and 33 would make a small change to one of the principles, which was added at stage 2 by the cabinet secretary. The bill states that Scottish ministers and relevant authorities “must have regard” to the principles in preparing their good food nation plans. Principle (b) as drafted is
“the role of sustainable food production in contributing to mitigation of climate change, halting and reversing of loss of biodiversity and improvement in animal welfare”.
My amendments change the phrase “sustainable food production” to
“sustainable food system and supply chain”.
That small change in wording carries significant meaning.
First, it expands the sphere of consideration to include what happens to food after it is produced. That includes food consumption and food waste or reuse. The choices that we all make about the food that we eat and the choices that public bodies make about the food that they procure and serve, and how much of it goes to waste, are crucial factors when it comes to the sustainability of the food system. I believe that that should all be kept under consideration and included in that principle.
Secondly, by explicitly including the supply chain within the principle of sustainability, it recognises the environmental improvements that can be made by, for example, using less packaging and shortening supply chains to reduce emissions from travel and refrigeration, while allowing for flexibility to fit the approach to particular circumstances. That complements the consideration of “resilient supply chains” in principle (e).
My amendment 23 would make that change in relation to the national plan, and amendment 33 would make it in relation to relevant authorities’ plans.
I do not support the other amendments in the group, as I believe that they are unnecessary and do not add significant meaning beyond that which is already in the bill.
There is a clear and undeniable link between ultra-processed food and poor health outcomes. Amendments 24, 25 and 26 acknowledge that link and provide an impetus for the good food nation plans to include provisions to reduce consumption of those foods in settings where it is possible, through the bill.
I understand the concern that has been raised by Rhoda Grant and, if she will allow me, I will explain what an ultra-processed food is defined as. I think that the concerns are perhaps unfounded, from looking at the concrete definitions of the term from the British Medical Journal, the British Heart Foundation, the Soil Association and even the BBC, all of which came to the same conclusion about how the term should be defined.
The Soil Association defines ultra-processed foods as those that
“typically contain little or no whole foods, are ready-to-consume or heat, and are made using industrial additives and processes. They often bear little resemblance to the real foods found in nature. They are often high in fat, salt and added sugar, and depleted in dietary fibre.”
If that description satisfies Rhoda Grant’s concerns, I would appreciate her support for my amendments, because they provide a fantastic opportunity to encourage the consumption of more whole foods while reducing the consumption of less-healthy foods.
My amendment 32 on
“the importance of supply chain transparency, sustainability and traceability” relates to the need for an enhanced approach to public sector procurement, which the bill has the capacity to achieve. Understanding where our food comes from, how it is procured and the impact of the food that we consume on the environment must be key considerations when the plans are being drawn up. The committee heard evidence to that effect. Those considerations should influence how relevant authorities and the Scottish Government conduct future food procurement. In turn, the amendment would help to foster more sustainable supply chains for public sector bodies and would help to improve the overall quality of the food that they procure.
We will support Ariane Burgess’s amendment. However, I am disappointed that we went through all the stages without any discussion from the Greens regarding some of the amendments that have been lodged at this stage.
Bear with me, Presiding Officer—I am drowning in paper. [
I am sorry, but I am afraid that I have managed to lose my piece of paper on this, Presiding Officer. However, I know that my amendment 67 is not going to be supported by SNP and Green members. It fits with the amendment that was discussed during an earlier grouping, and it is about trying to embed the rights of children and young people into the bill. I reached out to colleagues as recently as last night, so it is disappointing that the amendment is not going to get support, but I hope that what the cabinet secretary said earlier about the Government’s willingness to work beyond the bill passing is something that we can take at face value.
Amendments 21 and 30 would require the Scottish ministers and relevant authorities respectively to have regard to the principles set out in sections 1A and 7A when implementing the good food nation plans, in addition to the current requirement to have regard to the principles when preparing the plans. The existing duty to have regard to the principles when preparing the good food nation plans will ensure that consideration will be given to the principles when implementing the plans, as the policies included in the plans will have been prepared having had regard to the principles.
Amendments 22 and 31 propose changing the duty in sections 1A and 7A from “have regard” to “have due regard”. I set out clearly at stage 2 the Scottish Government’s position that the appropriate legal duty is to “have regard to” because that is a meaningful legal requirement and there is an obligation to consider that matter when we are making a decision.
Amendments 27 and 34 propose amending sections 1A and 7A to add wording about ensuring that the right to adequate food is implemented. Sections 1A and 7A start with the duty on Scottish ministers to have regard to the principles when preparing their plans, so there is already that need to have regard to that right when formulating the plans. For those reasons, I ask members not to support these amendments.
Rachael Hamilton’s amendments 24, 25 and 26 propose the addition of wording to section 1A in relation to ultra-processed foods. I reiterate what I have said in previous discussions on amendments, that this is a framework bill and the place for such detail is in the good food nation plans themselves. The principles in the bill are intentionally high level, so adding text on a specific issue such as this would not be appropriate. It is also not clear what “natural” means in relation to food. The word “nutritious”, which is already in section 1A(c) and section 7A(c), is broad enough to ensure that food is healthy, and the Scottish ministers and relevant authorities will have to have regard to that when preparing their plans.
Ariane Burgess’s amendments 23 and 33 would replace the words “sustainable food production” with
“a sustainable food system and supply chain” in sections 1A(b) and 7A(b). I support those amendments. If members were to agree to that change, the intention behind amendment 32 with regard to adding wording about supply chain transparency, sustainability and traceability to section 7A would be addressed.
Monica Lennon’s amendment 67 proposes adding wording to section 7A in relation to article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, the amendment does not accurately reflect the wording of article 24, which does not give a right to high-quality, nutritious food. The right set out in the article is to the
“enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health.”
It goes on to require state parties to pursue implementation of that right and take appropriate measures, including
“To combat disease and malnutrition ... through the provision of adequate nutritious foods”.
Accepting amendment 67 would place a requirement on relevant authorities to explain in their plan how they intend to do something that they are not presently under a duty to do. For those reasons, I urge members not to support amendment 67.
In summary, I ask members to support amendments 23 and 33 and not to support the remainder of the amendments in the group.
I share her concerns about the very late amendments from the Greens. They accuse other members, such as Monica Lennon, of lodging late amendments, but they do so themselves.
I am disappointed that the minister has rejected my amendments, as I believe that they would strengthen the bill. The bill is incredibly timid, and it is quite sad that the Government will not accept amendments that would make it much better. That is highlighted by the minister’s rejection of amendments from me and Monica Lennon that would enhance people’s existing human right to food.
The Presiding Officer:
The result of the division is: For 43; Against 67; Abstentions 0.
Amendment 25 disagreed to.
Members will note that we are nearing the next time limit. In order to allow debate on groups 6 and 7, I am minded to accept a motion without notice, under rule 9.8.5A, that the time limit for groups 4 to 7 be extended by 30 minutes.
That, under rule 9.8.5A, the time limit for groups 4 to 7 be extended by 30 minutes.—[
Motion agreed to.
Thank you. We hope to get that time back.
The question is, that amendment 26 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
My amendment on publishing
“information about any public authority that the Scottish ministers intend to specify in regulations under” the relevant section
“and the timescale for making the regulations” seeks to encourage greater transparency of good food nation plans. The publication of that information will allow for a greater level of scrutiny over the plans and their implementation, particularly in relation to timescales for delivery. Ensuring that relevant authorities and the Scottish Government are held to account over the delivery of the plans is paramount. To vote against the amendment would undoubtedly suggest an intention to evade accountability over the delivery of the aims of the bill.
Amendment 62 in my name seeks to include integration joint boards—IJBs—as a relevant authority, as supported by The Food Train. The Scottish Food Coalition, which has been very involved in the process of the bill with all parties, has also called for the inclusion of IJBs as a relevant authority.
We know the preventative importance of food for health and wellbeing, so amendment 62 would ensure that provisions explicitly cover social care, given the lack of statutory requirements on IJBs to produce a food plan.
The IJBs will become community health and social care boards. They should be required to produce good food nation plans, as they oversee the delivery of all community health and social care services and support within their local area monitoring and improving impact, performance and outcomes for people.
I move amendment 51.
Our IJBs oversee the delivery of community health and social care; therefore, we very much support their inclusion as a relevant authority in the bill. The provision of good food is integral to care, as well as for hospital discharges and food security in home care, crisis care, care at home, residential or nursing care. Amendment 62 ensures that such joint bodies do not slip through the net, and that they have either to produce their own good food nation plans or have their delegated functions addressed by the parent authority plans. That point is not currently clear in the bill.
Our health and social care partnerships produce plans in a host of areas that relate to care, so it makes no sense for good food nation plans not to be one of those areas. IJBs are best placed to lead on plans that relate to adult social care, so Scottish Labour very much supports the amendments in this group.
In relation to Rachael Hamilton’s amendments 51 and 62, a requirement was put in place at stage 2 by Karen Adam’s amendment 59 for consultation before regulations are made to add a new body to the list of relevant authorities. Setting out an intention to do so, as described in Ms Hamilton’s amendments, would be pre-empting the results of any such consultation. In addition, adding a new relevant authority is subject to the affirmative procedure, so there would be an opportunity for scrutiny of the regulations at that point.
That would also apply to amendment 62, which proposes to add integration joint boards to the list of relevant authorities. It would be preferable to carry out a consultation before adding any new relevant authorities, as will be required if, as I hope, members agree to pass the bill. In addition, the forthcoming national care service bill could likely result in changes to the format and status of IJBs, so their inclusion at this stage would be premature.
For those reasons, I ask members not to support amendments 51, 58 and 62.
Clearly, I do not agree with what the cabinet secretary has said. IJBs are an important relevant authority and they should have parity with other relevant authorities in the scope of the bill.
I do not believe that we should wait for a pre-emption of consultation results, because there are enough stakeholders out there that agree that IJBs are important to the delivery of the bill.
I will press amendment 51.
The Presiding Officer:
Amendment disagreed to.
Amendment 52 moved—[Colin Smyth]—and agreed to.
We move to group 7, which is on the healthy basket guarantee. Amendment 53, in the name of Rachael Hamilton, is in a group on its own. I call Rachael Hamilton to move and speak to amendment 53.
Amendment 53 would ensure that a healthy basket guarantee is considered when good food nation plans are drawn up. The healthy basket guarantee encourages retailers to ensure that healthy food items, such as fresh fruit and veg, remain at affordable prices, in order to encourage healthier eating. Although that does not pertain exclusively to public sector bodies, the example that I give is that, during the pandemic, there were occasions when food had to be procured by the public sector from the private sector for individuals such as those who were shielding. It was widely reported that that food was not nutritionally adequate. The healthy basket guarantee would ensure that, if such schemes were to be repeated—which they might be—the best value for money options would always provide a high level of nutritional adequacy for those who have to reply on them.
Furthermore, the priorities of the bill have progressed since it was introduced at stage 1, because the issues have been exacerbated by the cost of living crisis, and that could provide a deeper understanding of food insecurity.
I move amendment 53.
I am of the view that
amendment 53 should not be supported. This is a framework bill; the place for such a level of detail is in the good food nation plans. In addition, the term “healthy basket guarantee” is not defined. It is therefore not clear what the amendment, which would place a legal duty on the Scottish ministers, actually requires them to do. I urge members not to support amendment 53.
Once again, the Scottish Government is not supporting me on what is a proportionate measure to ensure that food security and the cost of living crisis are tackled and that people have the ability to access fresh fruit and vegetables at affordable prices, thereby encouraging healthy eating.
I intend to press amendment 53.
Amendments 54, 55, 55A and 59 to 61, in my name, would require the consultation process undertaken by the Scottish ministers on the development of the national good food nation plan to be as wide, inclusive and participatory as possible.
Amendment 54 would enable the participation of people with a range of lived experience of food-related issues. As we have discussed in relation to previous amendments, food policy is not just a matter for big, private food producers; it impacts on everyone’s lives—from their health to decent standards in our workplaces and from the impact on our environment to animal welfare.
Amendment 55 would amend section 2 to add a new subsection requiring the Scottish ministers
“when laying the proposed national good food plan before the Scottish Parliament” to
“publish a statement ... summarising ... the consultation process undertaken ... and ... any responses to the consultation” and to set out how they had regard to those responses in the preparation of the plan.
Amendment 55A would require the statement to set out how the Scottish ministers had ensured that such consultation was “accessible and inclusive”.
Amendments 59 and 61 are consequential to amendment 55 and ensure that provisions relating to the preparation of the plan would also apply when revising the plan. Amendment 60 would amend section 6 of the bill, as amended, to remove a reference to the subsections removed by amendment 52. Given the range of stakeholders with an interest in good food nation plans, it is important that any consultation is comprehensive and inclusive. The amendments in my name seek to achieve just that.
I move amendment 54.
I will speak to amendment 55 first, because if that is agreed to—as I hope that it will be—it would, as Colin Smyth has outlined, require Scottish ministers to publish a statement when weighing the proposed national good food nation plan, summarising the consultation process, any responses to it and setting out how section 2(1)(b) of the bill, as amended at stage 2, and what will become section 2(3) of the bill, if amendment 6 in the name of Rachael Hamilton is agreed to, have been complied with.
I support amendment 55 and the consequential amendments 59 and 61. I also support amendment 60.
I turn to amendments 54 and 55A, which are also in the name of Colin Smyth. As I set out at stage 2, I do not support making specific provision about who should be consulted, as Mr Smyth has done in amendment 54. It is our view that it is not practical to list everyone who should be consulted in the bill and that the inclusion of a partial list might inadvertently give the impression that those who are listed are of greater importance or should be given greater weight than those who are not listed.
Amendment 55A would require the statement referred to in amendment 55 to include information outlining the efforts made to ensure that the consultation was “accessible and inclusive”. That is unnecessary: the requirement to consult is already very broad and, in combination with amendment 6, lodged by Rachael Hamilton, amendment 55 already requires ministers to set out how they have complied with the requirement to communicate in an inclusive way. I also have concerns that the term “accessible” as used in amendment 55A is not defined.
For those reasons I urge members not to support amendments 54 and 55A. However, I encourage members to support amendments 55, 59, 60 and 61 in this group.
The consultation on good food plans undertaken by the relevant authorities needs to be wide, inclusive and participatory. It needs to enable the participation of specific groups, such as those who are vulnerable to food insecurity, people with protected characteristics, and those with experience of food-related issues. That is what the amendments in this group seek to deliver.
Earlier, we had a debate over the fact that the Government had given private food companies a statutory authority when it comes to the implementation of good food nation plans—an authority that it will not give to any other stakeholders. The cabinet secretary has just said that we should not single out a particular sector, but by failing to support amendment 54, which seeks the views of those with lived experience, such as people with an interest in fair work, the cabinet secretary is doing just that. Frankly, it is hypocritical to say that, in the implementation, we should single out a particular sector, but when it comes to producing the plans, we should not get the views of those with lived experience.
The failure of the SNP and the Greens to support amendment 54 shows a lack of priority when it comes to the development of good food nation plans. I press amendment 54.
The Presiding Officer:
Amendment 54 disagreed to.
Amendments 6, 7, 11, 12, 13 and 43, which are in my name, all aim to ensure that Scottish ministers and relevant authorities
“have regard to the importance of communicating in an inclusive way.”
If the Scottish Government wishes to fulfil its ambition to make consultation on the good food nation plans as wide, inclusive and participatory as possible, amendments on inclusive communication should be accepted and welcomed by all parties in Parliament. The amendments in my name set out that regard must be had to that when consulting on the draft good food nation plans, when publishing any document under sections 1 to 6 or sections 7 to 12, and when consulting on regulations under sections 4, 7(2)(c) or 10.
Amendment 13 provides a definition of the term
“communicating in an inclusive way”.
Presiding Officer, would you like me to speak to section 16(1A) of the bill?
Thank you for that clarification. Section 16 relates to regulation-making powers and requires that, before making any regulations under sections 4, 7(2)(c) or 10, Scottish ministers must consult persons whom they “consider appropriate” and “have regard to” the responses.
The purpose and effect of amendment 43 is to amend subsection 16(1A) to provide that
“In consulting under subsection (1A), the Scottish Ministers must have regard to the importance of communicating in an inclusive way.”
I move amendment 6.
I will speak to amendments 56 and 68. I welcome Rachael Hamilton’s amendments and confirm that Labour will support them. As I said earlier, the rights of children and young people should be at the heart of Scotland’s plans to become a good food nation. Amendments 56 and 68 would require Scottish ministers and relevant authorities to
“have regard to the importance of communicating in a way that is effective in engaging children and young people“ when consulting on good food nation plans.
I previously introduced proposals at stage 2 that were similar to amendments 56 and 68; unfortunately, they were not supported. Following further discussion with the cabinet secretary, I believe that we have reached a position of agreement on the amendments, so I hope that members will support amendments 56 and 68.
Amendments 56 and 68 are intended to ensure that consultation is carried out in a way that takes account of the fact that there might be a need to take a different approach to consultation in order to encourage children and young people to take part. The amendments are intended to help to ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard.
I really appreciate that, Presiding Officer, because you can probably hear that I am struggling with my voice today. We are talking about the importance of communication, which obviously requires good listening skills.
I am grateful to the STUC and other organisations that have backed amendments 56 and 68, which are linked to other amendments to which I have spoken already. Together with Rachael Hamilton’s amendments, they are important, because they will strengthen the bill.
I support Rachael Hamilton’s amendments in group 9, which will require the Scottish ministers and relevant authorities to have regard to communicating in an inclusive way, and Monica Lennon’s amendments, which highlight the need sometimes to take a tailored approach in order to communicate effectively and inclusively with young people.
The Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee report noted that consultations on the good food nation plans should be as inclusive as possible to ensure that they draw on a wide range of perspectives, knowledge and experiences—for example, the lived experience of workers in the food supply chain or people who are facing food insecurity, and the knowledge of people who have first-hand experience of food policies in other countries.
I welcome the amendments, which will extend the principle of inclusivity to many aspects of the good food nation process through inclusive communication.
My amendment 40 would, if agreed to, provide that the food commission would have to
“have regard to the importance of communicating in an inclusive way” when publishing documents. That relates to amendments in group 11 on the establishment of the food commission, which I will speak to later. The purpose of amendment 40 is to provide consistency in relation to the importance of inclusive communication and to embed the importance of inclusive communication in the work of the food commission.
At stage 2, I asked Rachael Hamilton to work with me prior to stage 3 to find a workable alternative to her amendments on inclusive communication that were lodged at stage 2. As I have previously set out, the Scottish Government’s approach to consultation will be as open, accessible and inclusive as possible. I am very pleased that Rachael Hamilton has worked with me to find wording that will be workable in practice. I welcome and support her amendments and Ariane Burgess’s related amendment 40.