Martin Hannan: Vital ingredient missing in food

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As someone who believes that there is often not a lot of joined up thinking among the movers and shakers of Scotland, I am glad to report that in one industry at least, we really have got our collective act together.

Our food and drink production coupled with our agricultural industry, or agri-business as it is known, is thriving.

The proof of that contention is that Scotland will soon be exporting food and drink worth more than £6 billion annually, and while whisky accounts for a lot of that sum, exports such as smoked salmon and meat products are well up on say, six or seven years ago.

I well remember being in Paris a few years ago and a top-class restaurant near the Opera House was displaying its seafood wares outside, with pride of place given to langoustines from L’Ecosse.

It’s nearer home, however, that there has been a revolution in the way people look at and appreciate our food and drink, and any visitor to the Royal Highland Show this week will see the proof of that contention.

As well as the chance to see some of the finest beef “on the hoof” so to speak, there will be literally dozens of stalls showcasing the very best of local produce from all the airts and pairts of this productive country.

I can predict that those stalls and the various cookery demonstrations by top chefs will do a roaring trade, and the Scotland Food & Drink Hall in particular will be crowded for four days.

For in growing numbers, we are no longer prepared to put up with bland pap that supermarkets so desperately want to sell us, not least because that “own brand” stuff is the most profitable part of their output.

We are turning in greater numbers than ever before to local producers selling locally made food and drink, and I believe that can only be good for the health and wealth of the nation. To see what I mean, take a trip to Edinburgh’s excellent farmers’ market which can be found each

Saturday morning at Castle Terrace and which usually features everything from venison to home-grown organic cucumbers, while the variety of Scottish cheeses has to be seen to be believed.

Yes, the food on offer is slightly more expensive than you will find in your out-of-town – or out-of-touch, as Private Eye put it this week – hypermarket, but the sheer range, tastiness and quality of food available makes a visit worthwhile.

What the Highland Show and local markets now do is educate the public, especially young people, about food and how it is produced.

That allows the populace to make an informed choice about what to eat, though there are still some irritating exceptions to this developing situation – the alcoholic drinks industry, for instance, should be forced to state just how much sugar is contained in a bottle or can.

Their trade lobbyists are very well funded and organised, however, and our politicians are too cosy with them, so that the truth is never known. That will change in time and drinks companies will be embarrassed into full disclosure as to their ingredients, because the public view of food and drink is changing, and the producers have to change, too.

All have a say on referendum

WORLD Exclusive! I can reveal that Uncle Tom Cobley has had his say on the referendum, and he may or may not have opposed Scottish independence!

As an SNP member can I thank the Pope, President Obama and Hilary Clinton for their intervention. Now, here’s how to run the Roman Catholic Church and the USA…och, forget it.

Unkindest cut

After serial naughtiness that Oor Wullie would have been proud of, our pet Jack Russell had to be taken to the vet for the unkindest cut. Hasn’t made the slightest difference.

Keeping trams inquiry on track

The announcement that Lord Hardie will lead the inquiry into the trams fiasco greatly heartened me. I first met him many years ago when as plain Andrew Hardie QC, he was the Scottish bar’s top expert on local government.

Believe me, he really knew his stuff, and he was very alive to the propensities, shall we say, of politicians, as he also showed during his time as Lord Advocate.

If anyone can get to the bottom of what went wrong with this disastrous project, it is Lord Hardie, not least because he has the forensic mind needed to sift through the evidence. Woe betide anyone who attempts to cover up unfortunate facts or tries to mislead the good judge – don’t even go there.