Scotland is a land of food and drink. We have some of the best natural produce in the world. The food and drink we rear, grow and make stands for quality, for beautiful unspoilt landscapes, clear air, pure water and all the traditions of good husbandry.
People around the world attach these values to food and drink from Scotland.
That is why food and drink is important to the people of Scotland. The food and drink industry is a key sector of Scotland's economy. It generates over £9.5 billion per year for Scotland and employs over 360,000 people from farmers and fishermen to shop assistants and waiters. These jobs are often in fragile rural and coastal areas. But more than that, the importance we attach to our food and drink reflects its significance to our health and wellbeing, its contribution to our environment and its meaning and culture in the communities which make up Scottish society.
Yet there is a strange Scottish paradox, despite producing fantastic food and drink we have one of the poorest diet-related health records in the developed world. A host of factors contributes to our poor diet. Whatever the reasons for our dietary habits, our culture must change if we are to prosper as a nation. We should be making our food choices in a more balanced way, taking account of food's healthiness, quality, seasonality and freshness. And our choices should also take into account wider issues such as climate change, food security, affordability, biodiversity, animal welfare and fair trade (both at home and abroad).
In my two years as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment I have been privileged to meet many of those who are interested in Scotland's food and drink future - farmers and fishermen, processors, retailers, community food groups and health professionals to name a few. I have been impressed to see their commitment to quality and meeting the needs of the consumer and wider society.
I have seen many businesses that have been able to identify and develop their markets in challenging economic conditions. I have seen examples of innovation and how our excellent resources in fishing and farming build our reputation for quality.
The time is right to build on these excellent efforts, and for everyone in Scotland - from convenience stores and takeaways on our high streets to supermarkets, from health professionals and international companies to our fishing fleet - to meet these challenges and unleash a food and drink revolution for the good of Scotland.
We will lead the way, working with food service companies, the hospitality sector and visitor attractions as well as the farmers and fisherman who produce the raw material and the companies who pack and process our food and drink.
The Scottish Government is committed to creating strong foundations to support this revolution. In 2007 we supported Scotland Food and Drink to provide leadership from within the food and drink industry and our focus to our marketing of Scotland as a land of food and drink. We are championing efforts to improve our diet and wellbeing and secure an environmentally sustainable future for Scotland. We have financed numerous projects and supported community food initiatives. In 2009 we are using the Year of Homecoming to promote Scotland and our food and drink abroad.
All of these actions are maximising the positive contribution which food and drink can make to the Government's purpose of sustainable economic growth.
Recipe for Success sets out the next steps for our National Food and Drink Policy. My Food and Drink Leadership Forum was tasked with drawing together a wide range of experts to make recommendations for the future. The National Food and Drink Policy is based on the firm foundation of their work. I am happy to say that I accept the Forum's recommendations, and I wish to extend my personal thanks to all involved.
The real challenge now is for us to build on this effort. Recipe for Success sets out a framework of action and opportunity. Taking it forward is a matter for no single group or set of individuals. It is challenge that can only be fully delivered if taken up by a collective response from all those growing, making, buying or selling food and drink in Scotland. But the prize is a great one - a healthier, wealthier, more environmentally sustainable Scotland. I encourage all those with an interest to seize the opportunity and contribute positively to this agenda. This could be your investment in Scotland's future.
RICHARD LOCHHEAD, MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment