The Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill was introduced last week with the ambition of providing an effective framework to achieve the vision of Scotland as a ‘Good Food Nation’.
Tackling the challenges faced by the food system in Scotland has been part of government strategy for a number of years. In 2014, the Scottish Government published a discussion document titled ‘Recipe for Success: Scotland’s National Food and Drink Policy – Becoming a Good Food Nation’ which made a commitment that by 2025, Scotland will be “a Good Food Nation, where people from every walk of life take pride and pleasure in, and benefit from, the food they produce, buy, cook, serve, and eat each day”.
In more specific terms, the vision of Scotland as a Good Food Nation encompasses the following key concepts:
- the people of Scotland taking a keen interest in their food;
- the people who serve and sell food ensuring that it is good quality food;
- everyone in Scotland having easy access to the healthy and nutritious food that they need;
- dietary related diseases declining;
- the environmental impact of food consumption decreasing; and
- Scottish producers ensuring that what they produce is increasingly healthy and environmentally sound.
Why is there a need for the Good Food Nation Bill?
In recent years, concerns about food security, food poverty, health and environmental consequences have become deeply embedded in Scottish society and it is well known that the food system in Scotland is facing a number of challenges. Despite Scotland having copious natural food resources and a globally renowned food and drink sector, there has been a significant increase in the use of food banks. Furthermore, Scotland is experiencing increasing obesity rates and poor diet is one of the leading causes of ill health.
This single piece of overarching legislation offers the opportunity to adopt a whole food system approach, in the hopes of enabling policy coherence across nutrition, health, agriculture, trade, climate and the environment, uniting in collaboration the public, private and third sectors.
What does the Bill say?
The Bill places an obligation on the Scottish Ministers to set out a National Good Food Nation Plan and makes provision as to the effect of that Plan. The Plan shall support social and economic wellbeing, the environment, health and economic development. There are also reporting duties placed on the Scottish Ministers to keep the Scottish Parliament updated on the progress of the Plans every two years.
The National Good Food Nation Plan required by the Bill must set out:
- the main outcomes, in respect of food-related issues, which the Scottish Ministers want to be achieved in relation to Scotland;
- indicators or other measures by which progress in achieving the outcomes may be assessed; and
- the policies which the Scottish Ministers intend to pursue in order to secure the achievement of the outcomes.
Similar requirements are placed on health boards, local authorities and other public authorities (collectively referred to in the Bill as "relevant authorities"), who are required to publish a Good Food Nation Plan and to have regard to that Plan when exercising specified functions. They are required to have regard to the Scottish Ministers' National Good Food Nation Plan when preparing their own Plan. Other public bodies may also be required to produce plans in the future.
Are there other Good Food Nations globally?
There are some global examples of food initiatives, policy and legislation that align with the Scottish approach through the Good Food Nation Bill. For example, France has a legislative food plan called the Public Policy for Food which has a broad scope, dealing with key areas such as, food security, food safety, product origin, the environmental impact of agricultural activities and education on food. Similarly, Canada has an organisation known as Food Secure Canada which is working towards improving food security and food sovereignty while also advancing a national food policy in Canada.
Does the Good Food Bill encompass the Right to Food Bill?
It should be noted that the Good Food Nation Bill covers different ground from the Right to Food (Scotland) Bill, the proposed member’s bill that MacRoberts provided commentary on earlier this year. The Right to Food (Scotland) Bill was proposed by Rhona Grant, MSP with the intention of incorporating the right to food into Scots law.
The proposed Right to Food (Scotland) Bill outlines that the objective of a fair food system is that food should be available, food should be accessible and food should be adequate. It was decided that consultation was required in relation to the Right to Food (Scotland) Bill and, therefore, a consultation document requires to be lodged by 5th December 2021. The Good Food Nation Bill does not seek to include a right to food in domestic legislation in isolation from any broader package of human rights measures.
The Good Food Nation Bill is widely considered to be a welcome introduction however certain organisations such as Nourish Scotland suggest that the provisions in the Bill could go further in addressing the environmental and human rights challenges faced by the food system in Scotland.
We look forward to seeing the impact of the implementation of Good Food Nation Bill in Scotland and the content of the good food plans required to be produced under the Bill.
This article was co-written by Clare Tuohy, Trainee Solicitor.