Right to food in Scots law put on table by ministers

Edinburgh Food Project volunteers at the food bank distribution centre in Broomhouse. Picture Steven Scott Taylor
Edinburgh Food Project volunteers at the food bank distribution centre in Broomhouse. Picture Steven Scott Taylor
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The Scottish Government is considering enshrining a right to food in Scots Law.

It is one of a number of recommendations being looked at following the publication of a report by the Independent Working Group on Food Poverty set up to look at rates of food poverty.

The group said while enshrining the right would not in itself end food insecurity, it would mean the Government and other public bodies would have a duty to ensure everyone has secure access to adequate and affordable food.

“The Scottish Government would be prepared to be challenged legally on how well it is implementing policies and deploying resources towards this end, within the limits of its existing powers,” its report said.

Other measures recommended by the group and accepted by the Government include introducing a system to measure food security in Scotland, and calling on the UK Government to help reduce the risk of sanctions and benefit delays in the welfare system.

The charity Trussell Trust has reported a rise in the use of food banks in recent years, with problems with benefits identified as the most significant reason for the increase.

It said people are being pushed below the breadline, with 63,794 emergency packs of supplies handed out across Scotland between April and September this year in an “epidemic of hunger”.

Ewan Gurr, the charity’s Scotland network manager, said close contact between senior ministers and organisations on the frontline of the hunger crisis is “absolutely crucial”. He said he knew countless stories of food poverty including how a young mum had to give up breastfeeding after eight weeks because of malnutrition,

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said: “We have been very clear – no-one should have to rely on emergency food provision in a country as prosperous as Scotland.

“Food poverty is a symptom of wider poverty and the UK Government’s harmful welfare cuts and benefit sanctions regime has clearly pushed more and more people into an income crisis, increasing the demand for emergency food.

“We want to create a sustainable solution to tackling food poverty across Scotland, and therefore I am committed to exploring a range of options, including looking into potentially enshrining the right to food into Scots Law.”

Campagign group Nourish says the UK’s current food system is characterised by inequality and exploitation at all levels, arguing that food is a public good and we should all have the means to be able to access it by right. It says: “A rights-based approach to food is one in which everyone has financial and geographical access to adequate, safe and nutritious food.”