Steps towards first Scottish national food and drink policy

The next steps towards the first National Policy for Food and Drink to boost the industry were announced this week by the Scottish government.

The next steps towards the first National Policy for Food and Drink to boost the industry, support healthier and more environmentally sustainable choices were announced this week by the Scottish government.

The cabinet secretary for rural affairs and the environment Richard Lochhead announced several new measures, including: a major campaign, led by high-profile chef Martin Wishart, to improve the quality and visibility of Scottish produce served in Scotland's restaurants and pubs; a focus on food education through Scotland's first Cooking Bus, teaching healthy, practical cooking skills to pupils, parents and community groups across the country; and an investigation into 'Scottish' labelling of food and drink to help make it easier for consumers to identify and trust labels.

Other measures include: support for a world-class health and nutrition centre through the future merger of the Rowett Research Institute and Aberdeen University; a new Scottish Government catering contract that leads by example, with greater emphasis on healthier menus, and the procurement of fresh and seasonal produce; and an inquiry into affordable access to food, in light of the global rise in food prices.

Speaking at the Royal Highland Show's Food Hall, Lochhead said: "The time is right for a fresh new future for Scottish food and drink. We have listened to the people of Scotland and they have told us what their priorities are - health and nutrition, education, local food and local economies.

"I aim to deliver a National Food and Drink Policy, which will promote Scotland's sustainable economic growth by ensuring the focus of all food and drink-related activity by government offers quality, health and wellbeing and sustainability, while recognising the need for access to affordable food for all."

Lochead continued: "There is already a significant amount of work ongoing across government and the new cross-cutting policy will continue to pull all this together in a coherent way. I will also be inviting key experts and influencers to join a Food and Drink Leadership Forum, to oversee the way forward for the developing policy.

"I will be commissioning work under five key themes to take forward the next steps of the policy, including a series of working groups to tackle issues such as healthier eating and sensible drinking, sustainability, labelling, skills and innovation.

Lochhead added: "I believe the high level of response to the discussion is indicative of a changing mindset towards food and drink in Scotland. The discussion has set the tone for the future by having a more consumer-focused approach to the new policy.

"As we enter the delivery phase of the policy, I am determined to continue to involve individuals from across the country, as well as stakeholders and experts.

"The discussion also showed an overwhelming response in favour of extending the new policy to include drinks, including both non-alcoholic and alcoholic. This policy will clearly work alongside our alcohol misuse strategy to promote more responsible attitudes to alcohol while contributing towards the growth of Scotland's food and drink industry to reach £10 billion by 2017."