The Scottish government first published its Becoming a Good Food Nation policy in 2014, aimed to ensure all citizens could produce, buy, cook, serve and eat the food they could take pleasure in every day. It is also designed to support Scotland’s F&B industry, which is a critical contributor to the country’s economy.
The sector is worth around £14bn annually and accounts for one in five manufacturing jobs. It currently boasts almost 19,000 businesses, employing over 100,000 people.
The recently published 2021-22 programme remains committed to the Good Food policy, which includes free school meals to all primary school pupils all year round; 100% rates relief for key sectors like hospitality; support for farmers; and the proposal to restrict promotion of foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS).
While the policy overall has been commended, the impact of the latter is a subject of contention.
Should the injunction go ahead, market researchers like IRI have reported that the impact will see more than just waistlines shrinking, with the bakery and snacks sectors alone standing to lose £500m in sales.
The Public Health Bill won’t be introduced in this year’s legislative programme (before summer recess next year) but the Scottish Government has said it will be introduced within this parliamentary session (within the next 5 years). The Public Health Bill is the primary legislation under which promotions restrictions sit.
“We are pleased to see that the Scottish Government is not rushing to introduce legislation to restrict the promotions of food and drink in this parliamentary year,” said FDF Scotland’s CEO David Thomson.
“This would have put additional pressures on our food and drink businesses at a time when our industry is dealing with the impacts of COVID, Brexit and labour shortages.”
However, Thomson has expressed disappointment the government is still pursuing the agenda, believing the move will be ineffectual in stemming the rising obesity crisis.
“There is no evidence of the effectiveness of these measures in reducing Scotland’s waist lines. Iconic Scottish brands who sell more of their products in Scotland will be disproportionately affected and it will also make shopping more expensive for our hard-pressed shoppers," he added.
Pushing for a fairer, greener Scotland
Yesterday (7 September), Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon laid out her administration’s plans for the year ahead, which spans everything from COVID recovery, to free school meals, women empowerment and gender recognition, to piloting a 4-day working week.
Said Sturgeon, “Over the last 18 months, the world, and our own individual places within it, have changed immeasurably. While the pandemic may have defined our lives for those dark and difficult months, the Scottish Government is determined that it does not define our future … Our ambition must be bold. This programme sets out clear plans to lead Scotland out of the greatest health crisis in a century and transform our nation and the lives of those who live here.”
The bills set to be introduced during the parliamentary year 2021/22:
- Annual Budget (No.1) Bill
- Bail and Release from Custody Bill
- Coronavirus (Compensation for Self-isolation) Bill
- COVID Recovery Bill
- Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Bill
- Fox Control Bill
- Gender Recognition Bill
- Miners’ Strike Pardon Bill
- Moveable Transactions Bill
- National Care Service Bill
- Non-Domestic Rates COVID-19 Appeals Bill
The Good Food Nation Bill has, again, been ‘affected by the need for parliamentary time to debate and implement emergency COVID-19 legislation … and will not be introduced in this parliamentary term’.
Net Zero ambition
According to FDF Scotland, it is not sure exactly what will be in the Good Food Nation Bill to be brought forward this parliamentary year, but acknowledges it aims to bring food policy into one place.
Said Thomson, “We are supportive of the Scottish Government’s aim to ensure the Scottish food and drink industry continues to be a world leader in providing high quality, sustainable food. A Good Food Nation is about a great industry, making great food, with great people. Any policy should support our manufacturers to thrive into the future.
The organisation is calling on the government to provide energy transition funding to industry stakeholders to help attain its Net Zero by 2040 ambition.
“Delivering a more sustainable food system is a top priority for our food and drink manufacturers. We recently announced our Net Zero by 2040 ambition – this builds on the great success already achieved by our members from across the UK in reducing onsite carbon emissions.
“To meet this ambitious target, we need the Scottish Government to ensure energy transition funding is applicable to our small and medium-sized food and drink manufacturers.
“It is also vital that we work together to make sure our businesses have the correct skills in place to support Scotland’s efforts in tackling the climate emergency.”