South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Spokesperson for Economic Development and Rural Affairs Colin Smyth has used a debate in the Scottish Parliament to praise Scotland’s food and drink sector – and call for an end to food poverty once and for all.
Speaking in the debate in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, the local MSP said: “I want to say thank you on behalf of Labour members to Scotland’s food and drink sector.
“Thank you to our farmers and crofters who, in the face of the uncertainty of Brexit and the lack of direction that we have had on the future of agricultural support, continue to deliver world-class quality food that Scotland is rightly proud of.
“Thank you to our fishers, who, after being let down by the post-Brexit deal and completely omitted from the SNP-Green coalition agreement, continue to play their part in our nation’s food security.
“Thank you to our shop workers who, while we were able to work from home, continued to work on the front line, along with producers, processors, wholesalers and deliverers, put the food and drink on our shelves to keep the nation fed during the pandemic.
“Thank you to the more than 18,000 food and drink businesses in Scotland, which turn over £14 billion a year, for employing more than 115,000 people.”
Colin continued: “For far too long, far too many people in Scotland have lacked adequate access to food, exposing the gross inequalities that we face today.
“In a nation that provides so much outstanding food and drink, it is to our nation’s shame that many children in Scotland still go to bed hungry at night. Although our food and drink sector in Scotland has grown, so too has the scandal of food poverty.
“We need to rethink how we approach access to food in this country, and that means recognising that access to food is a fundamental right.
“It was deeply disappointing that the Government did not deliver a dedicated and comprehensive good food nation bill in the previous session of Parliament. It is not good enough to simply blame the pandemic, because the commitment to deliver that bill was made at the start of the previous session, long before any of us had even heard of Covid.
“A bold good food nation bill is an opportunity for Scotland to lead the way on environmental sustainability, healthy eating and animal welfare, and to work with our trade unions to drive up terms and conditions for our food and drink workforce who, too often, are some of Scotland’s lowest-paid workers.
“Crucially, we need to enshrine in law the right to food, which would pave the way for a clear duty on our public bodies, with clear targets for action backed up by an independent statutory body to ensure that that action is delivered.”