Food and Drink Producers (Support)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 4 October 2023.

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Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

2. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to encourage people to support their local food and drink producers. (S6O-02585)

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

We want everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy food and drink that is produced locally and for producers of all sizes to access the markets that are on their doorsteps. We will shortly be publishing “Local food for everyone”, which will set out our local food strategy and is about connecting people with food, connecting Scottish producers with buyers and harnessing the power of public sector procurement.

We have also provided more than £700,000 between 2020 and this financial year to the Scottish Grocers Federation for its go local programme, which is helping transform convenience stores with dedicated display space for Scottish produce.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

I attended the Stranraer oyster festival—the cabinet secretary did as weel—where some fantastic Dumfriesshire and Galloway producers such as Stacy Hannah Chocolate, Moffat Distillery and Sulwath Brewers were selling their products. In addition, over the summer, many people supported our local food and drink producers at various agricultural shows. What further practical steps can the Scottish Government take to support the public to choose local, particularly with Food Standards Scotland pointing out that the Tory-made cost of living crisis is impacting on people’s ability to shop locally?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I welcome Emma Harper’s points about the Stranraer oyster festival. It was a fantastic event, and it is great to hear that about 25,000 people attended. I take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to Romano Petrucci as well as all the other volunteers who helped to make the event such a success.

In relation to Emma Harper’s question, we continue to support Scotland’s Town Partnership. This year, we provided it with a grant of £400,000 to develop the Scotland loves local programme as part of its overall work programme of activities, and as a means of putting localism at the heart of a stronger, greener and fairer Scotland. An additional £250,000 of funding was agreed earlier this year, which will enable significant development of the Scotland loves local gift card programme during this year, including further promotional activities, digitisation and further expansion and reach of the programme.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We have a couple of supplementaries, the first of which is from Brian Whittle.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

The cabinet secretary and I have rehearsed the topic of local public procurement many times and I know that she agrees with me that it is a significant way in which we can support our food producers and our rural economy. Does she agree that bean counters using cheap imported food is a false economy and that we must ensure that as many councils as possible use local food procurement? If so, what is the Scottish Government doing to ensure that that approach is expanded?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I welcome the member’s question. It is not just us who agree on that; members across the chamber agree on the power of public procurement and how it can strengthen both our local economy and our economy more widely. Indeed, we heard that in our recent food and drink debate.

As we know, this is a complex area, and that is why we have a number of initiatives to help us get round some of the issues and to support our local producers as much as possible. One such initiative is the Food4Fife scheme, which I know the member will be aware of. Over this financial year, we have provided £490,000 of funding for the expansion of that scheme and for a wider pilot project in Glasgow to examine how we can strengthen local public procurement not just in schools but across the wider public sector.

We will continue to monitor that and will look to do all that we can in that respect, particularly through the good food nation plan, the draft of which will be coming forward shortly. I look forward to engaging with Brian Whittle and other members on how we can look to improve what we are doing already.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

The issue is that most procurement, especially that for schools and other Government organisations, is done centrally. What steps will the cabinet secretary take to work with those who procure, including in relation to their wherewithal to procure, to ensure that local people have in their hands the ability to procure small amounts locally?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The member raises a really important point. We know that there is a complex legislative framework around procurement, and that is why, as I outlined in my previous response, we are undertaking a number of different initiatives and finding ways in which we can look to strengthen that.

One thing that we are taking forward is the Supplier Development Programme, which delivers free training and guidance on how to submit and win public procurement bids. Our legislation, through the sustainable procurement duty, requires public sector contracting authorities to consider and act on opportunities to facilitate the involvement of small and medium-sized enterprises, third sector bodies and supported businesses through public procurement.

Again, as with my offer to Brian Whittle, I am more than happy to continue to engage with Rhoda Grant and other members on considering what other improvements we could make in this area, because we want to ensure that we have strong local supply chains that really benefit our producers as well as our local economies.