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A Food, Farming and Health Act

A Food Farming and Health Act for Scotland

A Bill to transform our food system

Nourish and the Scottish Food Coalition want to see a radical transformation in how we approach our food system. The last piece of legislation relating to agriculture was in 1947. The process for the Good Food Nation Bill is due to formally begin in 2017. Seventy years on, we have an opportunity to put social justice, environmental sustainability and wellbeing at the heart of our food system.


What are we aiming for?

This is potentially world-leading legislation. Reading across so many government departments is not something that has been done before at Holyrood. However, there are some useful parallels to inform our ambitions. We would like the Good Food Nation Bill to:

  1. include a statement of food rights and responsibilities, similar to the one drafted for the Land Reform Act.
  2. establish a principal of sustainable development, which ensures the needs of the present are met without compromising the needs of future generations, similar to the Welsh Well-being of Future Generations Act
  3. establish a statutory food commission, with a civil society participation mechanism to promote involvement in policy making, ensure transparency and collaboration across government departments


Where does the idea come from?

The SNP, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Greens made manifesto commitments to a Bill that would read across food, farming, health and other issues. This was partly in response to the ‘Plenty’ report from the Scottish Food Coalition. Members of the Scottish Food Coalition include Nourish Scotland, RSPB, Unite, Unison, Soil Association, Scottish Crofting Federation and many more.

Legislation is needed to address:

  • high levels of food insecurity and the reliance on food banks;
  • low wages and insecure working conditions in many parts of the food industry;
  • the ongoing challenge of diet-related illness, particularly diabetes, cancer and heart disease, and the impact of these illnesses on health inequalities including child attainment and quality of life;
  • the contribution of our food system to the global environmental crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, soil quality loss, and antibiotic resistance.


The policy context for a Bill includes:

  • a commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals;
  • the recommendation of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in June 2016 for a strategic food policy to progress a rights-based approach to food;
  • the recommendations of the independent Short Life Working Group on Food Poverty in June 2016 for the government to measure and commit to reducing household food insecurity and to support dignified access to food for all;
  • the Scottish Government’s commitment to reducing child poverty;
  • uncertainty on the future of farming subsidies and environmental schemes, particularly post 2020: and the current economic pressures on primary producers;
  • the commitment by the Scottish Government to reduce food waste by 33% by 2025.


Where are we at?

Fergus Ewing confirmed at the Rural Economy Committee meeting on 29 June that the Bill would be cross-cutting:

“We are going to consult on a good food nation bill in 2017 and, in doing so, I hope to build a cross-party and stakeholder consensus. We want to enhance the national food policy with the vision of Scotland becoming a good food nation, where people from every walk of life take pride, pleasure and benefit from the food that they buy, serve and eat day by day. Work in shaping the course of the bill will involve colleagues and stakeholders in a number of areas across Government, including health, food standards, waste, social justice, agriculture, education and procurement. “

Roseanna Cunningham also confirmed this in her update in late July to the Environment, Land Reform and Climate Change committee.


Next steps

The Scottish Food Coalition is organising a series of Parliamentary events to explore the potential of this legislation, kick starting on 27th October. We will be publishing briefing papers on what we believe the Bill could achieve across a range of issues, we are also looking to organise a public seminar series with the University of Edinburgh, get in touch with Bella to stay in the loop.

Nourish will also be running a campaign to pressure the Government and Parliament to be ambitious in drafting the Good Food Nation bill. We will be advocating for the GFN bill to adopt a whole-system, rights-based approach to food. Get in touch with Celia or Elli to get involved.

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