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COVID-19 exposes flaws in Scotland's food system, campaigners warn

Holyrood Magazine

COVID-19 exposes flaws in Scotland's food system, campaigners warn

With the spread of coronavirus causing food shortages, job losses and a surge in foodbank use, the Scottish Food Coalition argued the crisis highlighted shortcomings in“a broken food system”

COVID-19 has laid bare “intrinsic issues” within Scotland’s food system, campaigners have warned.

With the spread of coronavirus causing food shortages, job losses and a surge in foodbank use, the Scottish Food Coalition argued the crisis highlighted shortcomings in“a broken food system” and called on the Scottish Government to overhaul the way food is distributed in Scotland in future.

The campaigners made the plea as the Scottish Government confirmed it would not introduce the Good Food Nation bill during the remainder of the parliamentary term because of COVID-19.

The bill was shelved by MSPs on Monday, along with several other high profile pieces of legislation, while parliament focuses on emergency measures to mitigate the impact of the virus.

Minister for Parliamentary Business Graeme Dey said that the government would need to "deprioritise" bills which are not "essential in the immediate term".

The Scottish Food Coalition said it “recognises that in these exceptional times the work of our government, parliament and civil service must be reprioritised to protect lives and navigate the complex challenges of the coming months”.

However, it also argued that there should be a “new norm” established once the crisis is over, including the legal “right to food” for all Scots.

The statement said: “The Scottish Food Coalition remains fully committed to helping us move to become a good food nation, with everyone having a right to food, a commission delivering a joined-up approach to overseeing our food system, national plans for delivering healthy, sustainable and accessible food, targets and duties stipulating the way that public funds are used to support the system. These issues will only become more important in the coming year.”

Professor Mary Brennan, chair of the Scottish Food Coalition, said: “During this outbreak, our priority must be protecting everyone’s health and safety.

“We will stand prepared in our various roles within the food system to support our society as we cope with, and go through this period and will continue to be vocal about the systemic challenges facing our food system.

“When it comes to rebuilding our communities and economy, we look forward to helping to establish a new norm through developing a truly good food nation.”

Pete Ritchie, director of Nourish Scotland, said: “The coalition recognises today’s decision was unavoidable.

“However, in the absence of a bill, it is crucial that policy action does the heavy lifting with regards to food governance.

“On health, food insecurity and climate change, the challenges facing our food system have not disappeared as a result of the outbreak; in fact, they have only become more acute.” 

Evie Murray, CEO of Leith Community Crops in Pots, said: “Covid-19, with its immediate and obvious effects, is rightly receiving the attention a potential catastrophe deserves. However, climate change, and the related issue of a broken food system, are no less serious.

“The fact fishermen have had to tie up boats because they have lost their markets whilst consumers simultaneously struggle to find food in supermarkets shows just how much needs disentangled in our food industry.

“While their effects might take a bit more effort to understand, they also destroy many people’s lives and threaten to destroy many more, as well as causing potentially irreversible damage to other elements of the biosphere, of which we must not forget our species is a part.

“My organisation draws inspiration from the Covid-19 response, which shows that drastic societal changes can be made when a cause is recognised to be important. We call upon the Scottish Government, and all responsible global citizens, not to rest when Covid-19 is under control, but to lose no time in tackling our food system and climate change with the same energy and commitment."

Read the most recent article written by Ailean Beaton - Additional £1.6m given to charity dealing with food insecurity

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