Monthly Round-up: Food at Holyrood

A roundup of all the latest food politics news affecting Scotland in January 2018

by Ashley Atkins, Communications & Research SFYN Scotland

The New Year started with DEFRA Secretary of State, Michael Gove MP, providing a clearer indication of how farming will change following Brexit at the Oxford Farming Conference.

Two of the headline announcements included a new system of financial support for farmers which prioritises public money for public goods and a holistic food policy which reconciles food production with the needs of the environment and public health.

So far organisations such as NFUS and Soil Association appear to be generally on board with Gove’s broad vision at the moment. As ever the devil will be in the detail and the specifics of the plan will not be public knowledge until the Agriculture Bill is put before the UK Parliament later in 2018.

The Agriculture Bill will predominately relate to farming in England so there is a growing obligation on the Scottish Government to set out its vision sooner rather than later.

In the Scottish Parliament the Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee scrutinised the Scottish Food and Drink Strategy’s budget and published its recommendations. The Committee identified that the budget had remained stagnant at £5 million since 2014 and called on the Scottish Government to review the funding allocation to realise the growth targets of Ambition 2030 for the Scottish Food and Drink Sector.

Ideas flowed about the sourcing stories behind premium Scottish produce during the evidence sessions for the REC Committee report. Significantly, James Withers, CEO of Scottish Food and Drink, mooted the idea of ‘open-book supply chains’ and stated how “the whole supply chain needs to think about that provenance story. If it is to mean something in the future, that will involve going right back to source – to the farm gate.”

In a wide-ranging report, the REC Committee were also encouraged by the gradual move towards more agricultural co-operation and collaborative supply chains, especially in assisting smaller producers to access markets.

At the end of the month Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, confirmed that the consultation for the Good Food Nation Bill would open this year for a period of twelve weeks.  However, Fergus Ewing was less than forthcoming on the launch date of the consultation nor the available funding for the proposed legislation.  This will be an issue to keep an eye on. Such an ambitious bill will be less meaningful if it comes with insufficient financial resources.

Finally, coming up in February Fergus Ewing will speaking at the NFUS AGM. This could be an event to watch if the Cabinet Secretary chooses to set out his vision for Scottish agriculture following Brexit.


A 90s child who grew up without an oven or a hob. The microwave was king in my home until I picked up one of Antonio Carluccio’s great cook books for the first time. Since then I’ve explored the world through food and drink but my first love will always be the regional cooking of Italy.  When I’m away from my kitchen I work in communications and research.

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