We are testing a new beta website for gov.scot go to new site


The content on these pages is not being updated. Get up-to-date information on Scottish Government support for the food and drink industry from https://beta.gov.scot

Public Food

The Scottish Government’s National Food and Drink Policy made it clear that food should not be considered as just another commodity to procure by the public sector. By its very nature it has the potential to influence our diet and therefore our health, our environment and our economy.

The overall aim is to ensure that catering in the public sector across schools, hospitals and other public sector settings sets an example in achieving the Good Food Nation objectives by promoting the best health, environmental sustainability and quality standards, whilst supporting industry growth.

Smart use of procurement too can play a key role in promoting jobs and growth, encouraging innovation, boosting training and apprenticeship opportunities and helping small and medium enterprises (SME’s) third sector organisations and supported businesses to compete effectively for contracts benefiting the competitiveness in our food and drink industry to deliver sustainable economic growth.

Access to food in schools, hospitals and elsewhere in the public sector is vitally important too in tackling inequality and providing access to good food for all.


There has been significant improvement driven by the Procurement Reform agenda and the National Food and Drink Policy. We believe that we can build on this success and that there are opportunities to revitalise the agenda, optimise the opportunities in that our Procurement Reforms present and capitalise on the greater awareness in the sector of  what the Scottish supply chain is able to deliver.

A multi-disciplinary approach involving industry, caterers and procurement are key to driving yet more sustainable economic growth through the public pound. The 2016 SNP manifesto is clear on its ambitions for public food in Scotland and Scottish sourcing by councils and public bodies.


  • The 2012/13 estimate for food and drink expenditure by the public sector values this at £149.4 million The 2009/10 figure was £150.3 which, with no apparent reduction in quality or specification reported, indicates better buying by public bodies with the public pound.
  • This is a sizable market offering secure payment and predictable demand for Scottish suppliers where public food contracts fit with individual business ambitions.
  • The estimate of products of Scottish origin purchased for schools, hospitals, universities, prisons remains high with an overall estimate of  48%.
  • There is a strong awareness in all parts of the public sector about the significance of sustainable purchasing advocated through the Food and Drink Policy and the Procurement Reform agenda.
  • The latest figures show that Scottish based suppliers by number  make up 78% of the public sector’s supplier base and are receiving 64% (up 13.5% since 2009/10) of the volume of public expenditure on food and drinks.
  • However response/interest from the supplier base is relatively low even although substantial effort and opportunity has been created for more food and drink SMEs to tender for public food contracts.
  • Public sector contracts offer stability, secure and timely payment with a predictable demand which represents a great opportunity for SMEs to consolidate businesses and scale up activity.
  • There is still a perceived complexity in the tender process and the food safety and quality safeguards for food and drink that are asked for in contracts.   


The 2012/13 estimate for food and drink expenditure by the public sector values this at £149.4 million.

Local Authority  catering activity in schools and social work is the largest area of public expenditure at 60-70 % of  total expenditure.

Breakdown Estimate Food and Drink Procurement Image 1Breakdown Estimate Food and Drink Procurement Image 2

Breakdown of Estimated Public Sector Food & Drink Procurement in 2012-13, by Sub-sector, £ million

The majority of spend is by Local Authorities, with the subsector accounting for 50% of total estimated spend.

This was followed by the NHS (23%), Colleges & Universities (10%), ALEO (9%), SPS (7%), Government Agencies (1%) and Emergency Services (which accounted for less than 1%.



  • 360,000 people are employed in the food and drink industry in Scotland.
  • It is estimated there are 1,193 food and drink manufacturing businesses that make up the food and drink  industry.
  • The majority (over 80%) of Scotland’s food and drink manufacturers are small to medium sized enterprises.


  • There are ca. 2,043 local authority primary schools, 361 local authority secondary schools and 138 local authority special schools.
  • There are 680,00 pupils and local authorities in Scotland served over 53 million school meals, and around 36% of these were free school meals.
  • Of those pupils present on the survey day, 56.6 per cent took a meal supplied by the school, compared to 49.8 per cent in 2014. 44.2 per cent of the pupils who were present on the survey day took a meal in secondary schools up from 39.2 per cent in 2009.
  • In 2015, across all sectors, 38.7 per cent (259,441 pupils) of the total school roll were registered for free school meals – more than double the previous year.
  • This increase is almost entirely due to the extension of free school meals eligibility to include all children in primary 1 to 3. Of those registered and present, 80.4 per cent took a free school meal on the survey day, down from 85.0 per cent in 2014.


  • Hospitals serve (17.5 million) approximately 48,000 meals per day or 17.7m per annum. The all NHS Scotland figure in 2012/13.