Food Security

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:45 pm on 31st March 2022.

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Photo of Alyn Smith Alyn Smith Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 3:45 pm, 31st March 2022

It is great to see a fan of my early work.

“I believe the UK government authorities have been far too complacent about the security and stability of our food supplies…assuming that international transit networks and foreign sources of supply will never fail.

Last week was the mother of all wake-up calls.”

I said that in The Scottish Farmer on 29 April 2010, talking about the Icelandic volcano. However, I am afraid that the sentiment still applies and the lessons remain largely unlearned by the UK Government. I do not necessarily criticise our Minister in the Chamber but we all—all of us, collectively—must get food security far higher on our agenda. The lessons need to be learned.

I hope that I have proven over the years, that I am cross-party; I believe in consensus, and in working with other parties. I do not fabricate disagreement where there is none, but, damn sure, we disagree on food. We have a different sense of where we want to get to. We also have a food emergency on this Government’s watch, and we urgently need to change course. I implore the Minister to take my suggestions seriously, because they are made in good faith.

Things have got worse in the last 20 years. The latest figures show that the UK’s food self-sufficiency has gone from 80% to below 60%. Of course, we cannot and should not produce everything, but our food supply is under unprecedented strain. I believe that food security should be viewed as our national security is, and given the same urgency and priority within Government. Anything that undermines food production, however well intentioned, should be viewed with extreme scepticism.

Food production must be the basis of the rural economy. Only profitable food businesses can form the bedrock of our rural economy. No amount of tourism, birdwatching or tree planting can replace it. Those are all important, but they are add-ons, not the basis or bedrock of our rural economy.