MSP Disappointed Right to Food Not Included: Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill Passed

On the 15th of June 2022, the Scottish Parliament passed the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill unanimously. It now awaits Royal assent before it can be enacted.

Rhoda Grant, Labour MSP, for the Highlands and Islands had her  amendment to the Bill which would have put a statutory Right to Food at the heart of the Bill voted down.

The MSP who sees this as a ‘betrayal of the poorest people in Scotland’, said:

“As people across Scotland are forced to make impossible choices between heating and eating, this Bill was a chance to take a different path. We could have taken a stand against the scandal of food poverty by enshrining the right to food in Scots law here and now. Instead the SNP and the Greens gave us the usual barrage of hollow rhetoric and bogus excuses – but the promise of jam tomorrow isn’t good enough when people can’t afford to eat today. This is a betrayal of the poorest people in Scotland, which leaves the SNP-Green government’s record on human rights in tatters.”

During the debate on the Stage 3 Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill, The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, responded to the amendment. Explaining why it would not be supported she said:

“It would have the effect that the right to food would be the sole focus of the bill, which is not the intention. The bill is intended to cover the wide-ranging nature of the good food nation vision, not to focus on one specific aspect of food policy.

“Furthermore, it is not clear what amendment 15 would add to the bill’s current provisions on the right to adequate food in, for example, section 1A, on principles, and section 3, on consideration of international instruments.

“We have also committed to incorporating human rights treaties in domestic law through the human rights bill, which will be introduced in the current parliamentary session. That bill will give effect to a wide range of internationally recognised human rights in Scots law, as far as possible within devolved competence, including the right to adequate food as part of the overall right to an adequate standard of living.

“The proposed human rights bill is the appropriate place to address the complex interrelationships between the rights and obligations across four treaties in a single, coherent and integrated framework.”

The vote on Rhoda Grant’s amendment was as follows: For 16, Against 64, Abstentions, 28.

SPICe has produced some useful research on the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill.

The document states that a Good Food Nation should promote the value of Scottish produce, e.g. through

  • strengthening the resilience of the food production sector by developing food processing capacity, investing in skills, and risk-based regulations;
  • enhancing the reputation of Scottish food at home and abroad e.g. through tourist information about Scottish food; and
  • supporting local sourcing, e.g. through setting targets for domestic food procurement in the public sector and a call for public bodies to report their progress on local food procurement to a statutory body.

The Bill has been on the go for some time and has been widely consulted on because food quality and supply affects so many aspects of our society’s well being. The consultation included Third Sector organisations. Amongst the many views expressed was that of The Scottish Food Coalition who felt that the Bill should include the Right to Food. It has welcomed the passing of the Bill.

Good Food Nation Campaign

The Bill when enacted will  “place a duty on Scottish Ministers to produce a national Good Food Nation Plan, and on local authorities, health boards and other public authorities specified in secondary legislation to produce Good Food Nation plans.”

A Food Commission will be established in Scotland.

Director of Nourish Scotland, and member of the Scottish Food Coalition, Pete Ritchie said:

“The good food nation bill lays the foundation for transforming Scotland’s food system for future generations, with benefits for health, climate, nature, communities and businesses.

“It’s good that the Bill’s been strengthened by the establishment of an independent food commission. The challenge now is to build on the cross party support for the Bill to develop ambitious cross cutting food plans and policies at local and national level.”

Expressing her disappointment Rhoda Grant said:

“I will keep fighting to get this UN-recognised human right in Scots law as soon as possible, so no-one is left going hungry while the SNP-Green government drag their heels.”

Rhoda Grant lodged her own Bill in September last year : Proposed Right to Food (Scotland) Bill

Mairi Gougeon said:

“The Good Food Nation Bill reinforces our commitment to ensuring that everyone in Scotland has access to healthy, nutritious fare and that businesses and public kitchens commit to producing, selling and serving good food.”