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September 11, 2013

An inquiry to nourish a nation

Last week’s Nourish Scotland conference represented a departure from the routine conference programme of key note speakers and workshops. The two day conference took the form of an inquiry into how Scotland’s food system needs to change.  Conference speakers took the role of witnesses giving evidence from a range of different perspectives, all of which are vital to improving Scotland’s food system. A full report is being written up. Here’s a flavour of what was discussed.


No need for food banks in the new Scotland was just one of the big changes flagged up by Nourish Scotland’s enquiry into our future food system, which took place at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh on 3rd and 4th September. 

Delegates from across Scotland, from farmers and crofters to people tackling food poverty in their own city communities, set out an ambitious blueprint for doing better with food. 

The enquiry heard testimony from 15 expert witnesses covering everything from the experience of living in food poverty to the economics of short supply chains, from new food technologies to the impact of diet on health.     

They called for a change in overall government focus from measuring gross domestic product to focusing on well-being; and for Scottish citizens to have the right to affordable healthy food.  Delivering this would require new policies on land, on advertising and on food pricing – plus strategic investment in closer connections between existing farmers and citizens, in new training programmes and in a national network of new small urban and rural farms.  These changes would lead to the creation of thousands of new skilled jobs in the food sector from growers, cooks, and bakers to community food brokers.

In the short term, participants want to see a number of ‘food towns’ across Scotland given a delegated budget and powers to change their food system from the bottom up – and, as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games legacy, a ‘House of Food’ drawing on Copenhagen’s experience in transforming public food.

Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead MSP who addressed the enquiry held at Queen Margaret University commended Nourish Scotland on setting up the event and said he looked forward to reading the full report, which will be finalised by enquiry members working together online over the next few weeks.

Expert witness Rachelle Faroul who spoke about her work linking upstate farmers to low-income communities in New York said:

“What really excites me about taking part in this enquiry is that this is about working with the strengths and assets within people and within communities: it’s not about doing things to them.  You’ve got a unique opportunity in Scotland to do amazing things.”