Good Food Nation Proposals for Legislation

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Closes 29 Mar 2019

Questions

1. To what extent do you agree with the framework proposals for Ministers and public authorities to prepare statements of policy, have regard to them in the exercise of relevant functions, and report on implementation, with regard to international obligations and guidance?

Framework legislation

Framework legislation - background
 
The first recommendation of the Scottish Food Commission in their report to Scottish Ministers, was that framework legislation should be the basis of Good Food Nation legislation.  Scottish Ministers agree.
 
Scottish Ministers believe that legislation to underpin work on the Good Food Nation ambition should be simple and clear.  The focus should be on a straightforward framework placing responsibilities on Scottish Ministers and selected public bodies with regard to food, in line with the principles and practices of the Good Food Nation policy.
 
The Food Commission also suggested placing similar requirements on private food-related businesses.  We have considered this proposal carefully and we are concerned that it would place significant additional costs on businesses operating in Scotland and unfairly disadvantage them compared to their competitors.  The conclusion is that the requirement to set out a statement on food policy should not be imposed on private companies but should be limited to Scottish Ministers and specified public bodies.  While Scottish Ministers and specified public bodies would provide a public lead on the delivery of the Good Food Nation policy, in doing so they would provide an example for other organisations, including private businesses, to follow.     

Framework legislation - outline

The proposal is that whilst the general framework principles would be set out in primary legislation, the detailed provisions would be contained in secondary legislation, making it easier to amend and update.  The statutory duties would operate along the following lines (with much of this detail being for secondary legislation):

Scottish Ministers

  • Requirement for Scottish Ministers to set out a statement of policy on food.  
  • The statement of policy would be required to cover food production and consumption issues relating to, for example and where applicable, the growing, harvesting, processing, marketing, sale, preparation and consumption of food, and disposal of waste arising from this; and access to affordable, local, nutritious and culturally appropriate food, and food in the public sector. Compatibility with relevant EU obligations would be essential.  Particular account would need to be taken of the implications of Brexit, not just in relation to anticipated impacts on producers but in relation to the rights, well-being and food security of the general public.
  • Scottish Ministers would be required, in setting out their statement of policy, to include indicators or measures of success.  This could draw on the work of the Scottish Food Commission and Scottish Government.  A number of food-related national indicators already form part of the refreshed National Performance Framework and could be further strengthened in this context. 
  • Scottish Ministers would be required, in the exercise of their functions, to have regard to the statement of policy on food.
  • Scottish Ministers would be required to consult on a draft statement and to have regard to the consultation responses.
  • Scottish Ministers would be required to publish the statement of policy and to lay it before the Scottish Parliament, for information rather than approval.
  • Scottish Ministers would be required to review the statement of policy every 5 years and any revision would be subject to the same requirements as the initial statement.
  • Scottish Ministers would be required to report every two years on implementation of the policy and to set out information on the indicators or measures of success.  This would include actions taken to give effect to international obligations and implement good practice, and should address measures of availability; stability (of food supply); accessibility; sustainability; and adequacy. This report would be published and laid before the Scottish Parliament in order to ensure transparency and accountability.
  • There would be a statutory requirement to have regard to relevant international obligations and guidance.  This should apply when developing the statement of policy, when exercising relevant functions and in reporting on implementation of the policy.  Relevant instruments and guidance would be specified in secondary legislation but would include, where appropriate, relevant aspects of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
  • It would also be possible to specify guidance such as the Voluntary Guidelines to support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security published by the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2004.

Specified public authorities 

  • Similar requirements would be placed on specified public authorities with relevant food-related functions, possibly including local authorities and Health Boards. 
  • Specified public authorities would be required to set out a statement of food policy (including indicators or measures of success); have regard to specified international instruments in doing so; have regard to that statement of policy in the exercise of certain functions; and report on progress to Scottish Ministers.  The statement of policy might include the origin and sourcing of food by the public authority; food waste; the emphasis on balanced and healthy food; access to affordable food; training in food preparation and purchase etc.; the specific approach taken in e.g. schools (including food education) and nursery schools, hospitals and public buildings. 

Scottish Ministers and public authorities

  • Scottish Ministers and specified public bodies would be required to collaborate to ensure a joined up approach to delivery of a Good Food Nation in Scotland.

The aim is to ensure an open and, where necessary, joined up approach to delivery of a Good Food Nation in Scotland.

2. Whilst we do not plan to require all sectors to prepare statements of policy on food, they do all have a role to play in achieving our Good Food Nation ambition. To what extent do you agree that Government should encourage and enable businesses in particular to play their part?

3. To what extent do you agree with the proposed approach to accountability of Scottish Ministers and specified public authorities?

Oversight of the Good Food Nation policy area

Good Government requires strong accountability and therefore it is important to ensure appropriate accountability for the performance of statutory functions that might be placed on Scottish Ministers and specified public authorities.  This is the reason for proposing a requirement for regular reports to be made to the Scottish Parliament, and to Scottish Ministers in the case of specified public authorities. 
 
The proposal is that Scottish Ministers and specified public authorities would be required to publish a statement of policy.  Scottish Ministers would lay their statement before the Scottish Parliament and specified public authorities would submit their statements to Scottish Ministers.  Scottish Ministers and specified public authorities would also be required to report every two years on implementation of the policy, including setting out information on the indicators or measures of success.  This report would be published and laid before the Scottish Parliament, or submitted to Scottish Ministers in the case of specified public authorities. 
 
We do not see value in establishing an independent statutory body for the purpose of overseeing the Good Food Nation policy.  Scottish Ministers have a presumption against the establishment of new statutory bodies in all but exceptional cases.  This is not such a case.  We consider that the establishment of a new body is unnecessary given the arrangements explained above and it would bring additional cost and bureaucracy.  

4. To what extent do you agree with the proposal for targeted legislation relevant to specific policy areas as an alternative to a single piece of legislation?

Other provisions

Scottish Ministers were grateful to the Scottish Food Commission for their work and their recommendations for legislation.  Full consideration has been given to the recommendations, many of which are already being taken forward through policy developments across Government.  The Good Food Nation Programme of Measures confirmed the extent of that cross Government work.
 
Where legislation is potentially required to deliver policy intentions in areas which could be seen to contribute to the Good Food Nation ambition, for example in relation to health, diet or food waste, then Scottish Ministers believe this should be taken forward through targeted legislation rather than the framework legislation proposed in this consultation.  The detail of any targeted legislation would be subject to full consultation at the appropriate time. 
 
This approach recognises the wide range of policy developments and legislation that can be said to deliver results that impact on the Good Food Nation vision.  This does not diminish the value of legislative provisions and it provides a flexibility that would not be possible through the development of a single piece of legislation.