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Consultation opens on proposed bill to give Scots a legal right to food

Food shopping - Image credit: Press Association

Consultation opens on proposed bill to give Scots a legal right to food

Proposals to give Scots a legal right to food have opened for public consultation.

Scottish Labour MSP Elaine Smith has launched a consultation on a member’s bill that would incorporate a right to food into Scots law.

The bill, entitled the Right to Food (Scotland) Bill, would also set up an independent statutory body to oversee Scottish food policy and ensure that no one goes hungry.

While the right to adequate food exists under international human rights law, there is nothing in Scots law that makes it legally enforceable or that requires it to be considered in policymaking.

Groups including the Scottish Human Rights Commission and members of the Scottish Food Coalition have called for the incorporation of the right to food into Scots law as part of the Scottish Government’s Good Food Nation Bill. However, that bill has been delayed.

Smith said the COVID-19 crisis had thrown the food system into “sharp focus”.

In April the Trussell Trust saw a 47 per cent increase in foodbank use, while earlier this month the Scottish Government announced an extra £1.6m of funding for FareShare, a charity that redistributes surplus food.

Commenting on her proposed bill, she said: “As Marcus Rashford demonstrated last week, the right to food is one of the most vital issues in this country and one that is badly neglected.

“In this time of crisis, things that so many of us take for granted, like the availability of healthy food, have been revealed as being of critical importance.

“Food policy has not been given the priority it deserves by the Scottish Government.

“With COVID-19 throwing sharp focus on our food system, it is time for that to change.

“No one should be going hungry in a wealthy nation like Scotland.

“By enshrining the internationally recognised right to food in Scots law we can send a clear message that hunger has no place in Scotland.”

Professor Mary Brennan, chair of the Scottish Food Coalition, added: “The Scottish Food Coalition heartily welcomes the launch of Elaine Smith MSP's consultation on the right to food bill. 

“Although the right to food is an established right in international law, the Scottish Food Coalition firmly believes that direct incorporation of the right to food into Scotland’s domestic laws is necessary to ensure that the right is realised for all of our citizens. 

“In practice, realising people’s right to food means that it is the state's responsibility to ensure that food is available, accessible and adequate for everyone.  

“This includes, for example, ensuring that businesses play their part in the sale of safe, nutritious food for all; government takes action to tackle low pay in the food industry; and ensuring a compassionate system of social security which enables people to eat well and access food with dignity. 

“I strongly urge everyone to respond to this important consultation on our right to food.

“The outcomes of which will shape the underlying principles guiding our Scottish food system. 

“This is a matter of basic human rights.

“Our food system impacts us all and it is time that our laws reflected this and complied with international law.”

The consultation will run for 12 weeks until 15 September 2020.

Read the most recent article written by Jenni Davidson - Two SNP parliamentarians call for national day of mourning for victims of coronavirus

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