Where we've come from
It's the role of the food industry to provide you with the food you want for your table - round the clock, every day of the year. Government also plays a key role - providing a range of services, including advice and financial support to the food industry.
We need to make sure that there's a steady supply of safe food; that we don't run out of the essentials; and that the most vulnerable people are taken care of, for example with free school meals. In tackling these issues we must also take account of a range of rules and regulations.
In the past, when Governments made policy about food and drink, it tended to be based on what was happening in particular sectors of the industry, rather than in the industry as a whole. Traditionally, the focus was on supporting the market for supplies of primary produce, such as milk, grain and meat. Government still plays a role in regulating and supporting producers and ensuring they use Scotland's natural resources sustainably.
But more recently, we've begun to look at the much broader issues that affect everyone. Issues such as how we square a successful industry and satisfied consumers with a healthy natural environment; how we guarantee the safety and quality of our food; how we keep it wholesome and health-giving yet affordable, and how we position Scottish food to best advantage in the global marketplace, maximising returns back to Scotland.
We also have to accept that our health record in Scotland isn't good, and that the amount of food we eat, the kind of food we eat, as well as the way we prepare it, has a significant impact on our health. We all know that good diet can play an important role in helping to prevent Scotland's three big killers - heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. Although we are all taking steps to improve the nation's diet, we still have a long way to go.
Since every single person in Scotland has a stake in the future of our food and drink industry, it is perhaps inevitable that not everyone's interests have been represented in the debate so far. Which is one of the reasons we're publishing this. We want to encourage everyone to have their say.
Until fairly recently, the same was probably true of the industry itself. But now it has Scotland Food & Drink, which was formed last year. This is a body led by food and drink businesses and supported by us, the Government. It is there to help the industry grow by providing leadership and strategic thinking, bringing people together and enabling voices to be heard.
We need to make sure that this new, more joined-up approach is understood and taken on board by everyone, not just in the industry but throughout Government and all the public and voluntary agencies whose interests overlap in any way with food and drink.