Food in Scotland is often described as a paradox.We produce some of the finest produce in the world, and our grain, fish and dairy products are exported across the globe.
The industry is often cited as a success story, yet despite producing this bounty, many people in Scotland are unable to access sufficient food to feed themselves and their families.
In addition, our levels of diet-related ill health and obesity continue to rise.
Time for fairness with food
While the industry secures many vital jobs, especially in our remote rural areas, many farmers are struggling financially. And many people employed in agriculture, manufacturing and hospitality work long hours and are poorly paid.
In addition, current agricultural practices contribute to our carbon emissions and can threaten our biodiversity.This doesn’t seem very fair. Nourish wants to see:
- more fairness in our food system: for our families, our farmers, our workers and our planet
- a transformation in how we grow, make, eat and access our food
- Scotland produce more of what we eat and eat more of what we produce.
We believe that everyone has the right to sufficient, safe, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food.
Food is more than calories, profit margins and quotas: our food system and our food culture surrounding it could, and should, enhance our environment and people’s lives.
We believe that our farmers, producers and people who work with food have a right to a fair wage and to be treated with dignity and respect.
And we believe that it is possible to produce our food while looking after our environment and promoting animal welfare.
Ending hunger and achieving ‘food security’
The Scottish Government has become an early signatory to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 2 commits the Scottish Government to taking action to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”. We fully support this goal.
But how can we make sure this commitment will become a reality and not remain an empty promise?
- We need a meaningful national minimum wage, which reflects the true cost of living, so we can all afford to pay the bills and to feed ourselves. This should be underpinned by a benefit system that provides an adequate safety net, linked with advice services that can address specific needs.
- We want to see continued investment in the grass-roots projects that help people grow, access, and cook food.
- We want to see more development of our community food sector; perhaps by creating community food hubs that can join up food related work in an area and provide these services.
- We want to increase our skill levels, providing training and development for people working with food and stimulating new food based start-ups, especially ones that deliver sustainably produced, healthy food.
- We need to invest in – and reward – greener agriculture, reducing nitrate use and lowering carbon emissions.
- Finally we need to invest in our supply chains, connecting producers with consumers, giving them the ability to develop local markets, and allowing consumers to buy locally and support their local businesses and local economy.
Producing our food is not just about inputs and outputs, it impacts on all of us.It can help deliver stronger communities, increased economic growth, environmental protection and a healthier diet – elements vital to any vision of a Fairer Scotland.
But it will only happen if our policy makers join the dots.
Tracey Reilly (Policy Manager, Nourish Scotland)