The Scottish Food Coalition (SFC) is campaigning for significant changes in legislation to transform the current food system in Scotland. The Coalition proposed a Good Food Nation Bill to guarantee the right to food as a fundamental human right and propose joint legislation on food, farming, and health.
While the Scottish government outlined a Good Food Nation policy in 2014, the legislative process has been slow and uncertain. As a result, the SFC is hoping to speed up the adoption of the Good Food Nation Bill.
“We have had to do continuous lobbying of government to keep the Bill in the parliamentary timetable for the last couple of years,” says Pete Ritchie, Co-chair of the SFC and Executive Director at Nourish Scotland, one of the leading organizations in the Coalition. “We persuaded three political parties running for the 2016 parliament election to put in their manifestos that they would support a good food nation.”
The Bill aims at integrating health, sustainability, and social justice, while addressing problem areas in the current food system. According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Kingdom ranks in the bottom half of European countries in terms of household food insecurity. In 2014, 8.4 million people—a population equivalent to that of London—lived in households where adults reported insecure access to food. On the other hand, Scotland struggles with high rates of overweight and obesity. In 2016, 65 percent of adults aged 16 and more were overweight, out of which 29 percent were obese.
At the heart of the Bill is the idea of universal access to high quality, nutritious, and sustainable food to tackle the issues of obesity and poor nutrition. The UK has signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which includes the access to food as everyone’s right to an adequate standard of living. “We have been arguing for the Covenant to be brought into domestic law starting with the right to food,” adds Ritchie.
The SFC envisions four other key elements to improve the current food policy: establishing an independent statutory body, cross-cutting national food plans, sectoral targets, and duties of public bodies. “We want specific targets for environmental performance, food poverty reduction, and an increase in the number of people who have a healthy weight,” says Ritchie.
Between February and April 2018, the SFC invited people from across Scotland to discuss the future of food. More than 800 citizens took part in the Kitchen Table Talks, a series of public consultation events.“The number of people and their commitment to the talks showed that there is a real interest in the bill,” says Ritchie. And young people in their late twenties to early thirties took an active part in the discussions. “That is mostly where the energy in Scotland is,” concluded Ritchie. The Coalition summarized the discussions in a report, analyzing and clustering the most significant citizen concerns, which shaped the proposed bill.
“There is a growing consensus it would be good to look at the food system as a whole in one legislative framework,” adds Ritchie.
The SFC plans to expand its support and continue with the campaign. “WWF and Oxfam will join the Coalition giving us more reach and strengthening our Coalition, which is really important.”
Despite cross-party support for the Bill, the Scottish Government has reduced its commitment to a Bill in its latest Programme for Government, focusing instead on food and drink exports. The Coalition will push harder and engage more citizens in changing Government’s mind. “At the end of the day,” says Ritchie, “being a good food nation is not about how much whisky we can export, but how well we can nourish ourselves and our families, and how well we can care for the soil, water, air and wildlife on which we all depend.”