Scotland kicks off food policy debate

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food, Industry

The Scottish government has published a new discussion paper
setting out its vision for the country's food supply and industry,
which will help set the agenda for its first ever national
food policy.

The Scottish food industry is generates some £7.3bn (€9.8bn) in sales from processing, including agriculture, fishing and whiskey. Food and drink also make up the biggest export industry, racking up £6.4bn (€8.6bn) in sales (in and outside the rest of the UK). The paper, called Choosing the right ingredients: The future for food in Scotland​, aims to give consumers and industry stakeholders a say in shaping the policy. It also sets out a vision for food's role in making Scotland "healthier, wealthier and smarter, with production making communities stronger and consumption respecting the local and global environment".​ Sustainable economic growth is envisaged through more cooperation and collaboration along the food supply chain - from primary production to market. This, it says, would ensure the long-term viability of primary producers, and increase export markets for produce. Moreover, the environmental impact of food and drink production could be reduced by more responsible behaviour - in production, processing, manufacturing and consumption. Such behaviour includes reducing emissions and reducing unnecessary use of raw materials, waste, packaging and water. The Scottish government says its proposed policy would be the first such broad-reaching policy in the UK. A spokesperson told that comments will be received until April 25 - but this deadline may well be extended. As for development of the policy, there is no firm time frame in place since it depends very much on the responses - and volume of responses - generated by the discussion paper. Once it has been drawn up, the new policy would need agreement of the cabinet. At a forum in Edinburgh last week that brought together government representatives and members of the food manufacturing sector, Flora McLean, director of the Scottish Food and Drink Federation (SFDF) said: "A successful food and drink industry is a vital component of a healthy Scottish economy."​ She pledged that the industry will participate in the debate, but said the main challenge the government has to overcome is "how best to harness the energy and pace of the sector, in a true partnership, to deliver the best results for Scotland as a whole".​ Particular points of action for processors and manufacturers to help achieve industry goals include working more closely with public sector buyers, and collaborating with producers and retailers to produce a more sustainable food supply. The government also wants to see increased training, and innovation in developing products with less salt, saturated fat and sugar content. Adding value to primary produce, it says, can also help develop markets at home and abroad. For the Scottish population at large, the goal is to improve the health of Scottish people by encouraging individuals to change their behaviour and consider the origins of their food. Not only will this make them wiser to healthy choices, says the paper, but it will also make them more aware of environmental social and economic implications of food choices. While the Scottish government has, in the past, drawn up food and drink policy related to particular sectors of the industry (especially primary products like meat, milk and grain), the discussion represents a new departure to broader concerns. "The government has no pre-cooked formula for success​," said Richard Lochhead, cabinet secretary for rural affairs and the environment in the foreword. "What are the ingredients of a successful food policy for your family, your community, your industry or your organisation?... What do you value in terms of Scotland's food industries, food heritage and food culture?" ​ The discussion paper is available here​.

Related topics: Policy

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