Back in February we wrote about the importance of the Scottish food system, and the work we’ve been doing on the long-awaited Good Food Nation Bill. We need the Good Food Nation Bill and the consequent plans set out by the Scottish Government to be broad and ambitious to tackle the current food system. Read on to hear more about the progress of the Bill and the changes we think are crucial in ensuring it’s success for nature, the climate and people in Scotland.
The Good Food Nation Bill
As stated in the recently published Plenty More Report from the Scottish Food Coalition, Scotland's food system is broken. Under the current system, healthy diets are not affordable, our farming and fishing practices are unsustainable and harming the environment, and many individuals rely on food banks. The Good Food Nation Bill (GFN) considers the food system as a whole, recognising that we need an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach to tackling these issues, avoiding the typical siloed approach. We are a founding member of the Scottish Food Coalition (SFC), an organisation formed of over 40-member NGOs and charities who are all working on different aspects of the food system, whether that be the environment, health, poverty or animal welfare. Together, we have been fighting to ensure that policies in Scotland support a healthy and sustainable food system that works for both people and the planet.
Creating a strong framework to transform Scotland’s food system requires carefully fitting its elements together, like a jigsaw puzzle (Source: SFC Plenty More Report).
The Good Food Nation Bill was first introduced by the Scottish Government in October 2021 with the purpose of establishing Scotland as a Good Food Nation. As stated by Mairi Gougeon, the cabinet secretary, at the Stage 1 debate in March: “At the heart of the bill, is the requirement of the Scottish Government and key public authorities to draft, consult on, publish and keep under review good food nation plans”.
In March this year, the GFN Bill passed Stage 1 after the general principles of the Bill were brought before parliament and agreed on by MSPs. The Bill is currently progressing through Stage 2 which involves the lead committee (in this case the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee (RAINE)) scrutinising the bill line-by-line and making changes, or amendments, to the bill. Amendments can be proposed by MSPs, meaning this is a particularly key stage for us as SFC members, as it provides an opportunity for us to influence their proposals.
Amendments are critical to the success of the Bill
To ensure that the GFN Bill is fit for purpose, we believe that the following must be included in the Bill.
Right to food: We need the Bill to clearly state that its purpose is to protect the right to food for everyone in Scotland, today and for future generations. It means reducing food insecurity and producing food in ways that are sustainable, so that the next generations’ food security is protected too.
Food Commission: We need a new body to oversee and guide our progress. This Commission needs to be independent of government so that it can give us a true picture of the whole system. It would provide essential scrutiny and inform us about what is already good about Scotland’s food system and what needs to improve.
Targets: We need a small number of ambitious and achievable targets to focus minds and stimulate immediate action. Example targets that we support include:
Food plans: The draft Bill commits the Scottish Government to writing and consulting on a national plan for the food system every 5 years.
Local action: The draft Bill requires local authorities and health boards to produce their own food plans. This could be a big driver of change at the local level if communities are involved in preparing and reviewing the plans.
So far, only the last two of these, food plans and local action, have been included in the draft Bill. We are committed to ensuring our MSPs know how crucial all of the above are to a successful Bill, securing our future as a Good Food Nation.
SFC Day of Action
In order to achieve this, on Tuesday 26 April, we, alongside many other members and supporters of the Scottish Food Coalition, gathered outside of Scottish Parliament for the Good Food Nation Day of Action. The key aim of the day was to show how much public support there is for this Bill and to ask MSPs to support our suggested amendments for the Bill as it makes its way through Stage 2.
Highlights of the day included listening to Arianne Burgess speech, enjoying a tasty and sustainable lunch provided by Edinburgh Food Social, and completing the food system jigsaw puzzle.
The day of action was a huge success, with 26 MSPs attending from all parties and speaking to their constituents about the Good Food Nation Bill and listening to their views on why it’s such a crucial piece of legislation. We were able to demonstrate collectively to MSPs the urgent need for food system reform to address the multiple issues facing our food system, including the role of food in the nature and climate crisis.
The “In a Good Food Nation...” board from the Day of Action. Responses were added by attendees to the board addressing environmental, social, economic, and healthy aspects of the food system across Scotland.
What’s next for the Good Food Nation Bill?
This Wednesday 11 May, the RAINE committee will be voting on amendments to the Bill. If you’re interested in watching the debate, you can find it live on Scottish Parliament TV or can watch the recording. We believe that in order to succeed, the Good Food Nation Bill must have strong language on the Right to Food, include ambitious and bold targets, and an independent Food Commission. Once the committee has voted, there will be a further Stage 3 debate in early Summer, where any final amendments to the Bill are proposed and important issues are debated.
By working together on our collective vision, we can create a food system that Scotland both deserves and needs.
If you would like to find out more about Scotland’s Food System and explore this further, the SFC recently produced this report, or if you would like to join the campaign for a healthier, fairer and more sustainable food system in Scotland’s future food system, get in touch with Andrew Stark our land-use policy officer.
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