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MSPs unite to vote for law that would see public authorities provide better food

The Bill will stipulate that public authorities create Good Food Nation plans (Ben Birchall/PA)
The Bill will stipulate that public authorities create Good Food Nation plans (Ben Birchall/PA)

MSPs have voted unanimously to pass a Bill that would require public authorities to devise plans to improve the food they provide.

The Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill will force the Scottish Government and other public bodies to produce plans aimed at helping Scotland become a good food nation, meaning those who serve food are committed to making it the highest quality available and that Scots understand what is meant by “good food”.

The Bill passed with the support of 113 MSPs on Wednesday, with no votes against or abstentions.

But, despite a push by the Scottish Labour Party, the Bill will not enshrine in law the right to food, which Scottish Labour MSP Colin Smyth said was a “disgrace”.

“Delivering that right should be driving everything about Government food policy,” he said in Holyrood on Wednesday.

“That common purpose, that clear vision, would have set the direction of travel for building the fairer, healthier, more sustainable food system that Scotland desperately needs.

“It remains to all our shame that in a country with so much fine food and drink, so many children will still go to bed hungry tonight and so many families will continue to rely on food banks.

“I don’t want to just have regard for food poverty, I want to eliminate it.”

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon, who could not attend the Scottish Parliament after testing positive for Covid-19, said the Government was “ambitious” about the health of the people of Scotland.

She added: “I look forward to the work that I and ministerial colleagues will do in setting out our ambitious food policies, our objectives and outcomes in the future national Good Food Nation plan.

“And I also look forward to our continued work with local authorities and health boards in relation to food because that cooperation will only be enhanced by this Bill’s provisions.

“And most of all, I look forward to this Bill enabling the change that we all want to see in our food system and to effecting people’s lives in a real and positive way.”

Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton said the Bill, which was subject to a number of amendments, was “a little bit more” than a “box ticking exercise”.

“We have worked cross-party to pass some very important amendments to the Bill, this will allow it to fulfil some of the aims as I have discussed,” she added.

“Although I don’t feel that this Bill has been perfectly allowed to fulfil its potential, we have to step up our game and deliver changes we need to see in this country.”