August 9, 2022
A big step forward
There is something very wrong about a wealthy nation in which thousands of people routinely go hungry. Soaring food prices are just adding to the pressures on a food system that many believe has been badly broken for years. Not only are there too many people without sufficient food to eat, but much of that food is of poor quality and seriously bad for our health and environment. Earlier this year The Good Food Nation Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament. Scotland’s food campaigners believe this is an important first step in the right direction.
Stage 3 of the Good Food Nation Bill comes to a close – just waiting on a signature from the Queen and the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill becomes the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Act. And we’re pretty pleased with the result.
If you’ve read our previous blog, What happened to the Good Food Nation ambition?, you will know that there have been a few hairy moments in the development of the Bill. It has certainly not been smooth sailing throughout – not least because the Bill was very thin when it was first introduced.
It included a duty on local authorities, Ministers and health boards to produce food plans, with minimal detail of what needed to be in these plans, what the plans were aiming to achieve and who was going to be responsible for checking to see the plans were making a difference.
Over a number of months, Scottish Parliament worked hard to interrogate the Bill – with the Rural Affairs Committee leading this work. The Committee sought evidence from a broad range of stakeholders during Stage 1. Evidence from organisations who focus on health, food insecurity, nature and climate change (the majority of which were Scottish Food Coalition members) as well as the voices of local authorities and industry.
Carving out this parliamentary time for evidence from a broad range of stakeholders helped to ensure that this Bill, which is intended to ensure a cross-cutting approach to food policy, was informed by a broad range of views. Many of these views, certainly those from Coalition partners, spoke with a united voice calling for the same five asks.* This is no accident, the members of the Scottish Food Coalition agreed on our five asks for the Bill over 5 years ago, and we’ve made sure to keep them front and centre throughout the campaign – this consistent messaging was key in securing a stronger Bill. It meant that whilst everyone else was scrambling to flush out what a framework law on food should look like, we were ready with the answer.
Coalition partners also showed up in force, just before Stage 2 was due to kick off, we had an event outside of parliament where over 25 MSPs attended, and about 100 campaigners from across Scotland. In the past 2 weeks alone, we’ve had over 850 letters sent from campaigners calling for a stronger Bill – an incredible feat.
Finally – I wanted to point towards MSPs who worked across party lines, firstly to make sure the Bill was introduced in the first instance (which was a years-long challenge) and secondly to prioritise good policy making ahead of political goal scoring. The Bill is much better for it.
It has truly been a joint effort and a shared win.
So how did we do – Click here
Influencing policy is an imperfect science, with so many influencing factors that are out of our control – we were never going to get a perfect score. But there is a lot to be proud of, and a lot of people behind this success. We don’t have to look far to see a more regressive approach to food policy – have a look at the latest announcements on England’s Food Strategy.
So, our final thanks go to the Scottish Government for coming up trumps. Food system legislation is infamously challenging. Advancements in this country will help to trailblaze a path for many others – and that’s a legacy for us all to celebrate.