Good Food Nation proposals for legislation: analysis of consultation responses

Analysis of responses to the Good Food Nation Proposals for Legislation consultation.

Scottish Ministers and Public Authorities

19. The consultation paper noted that 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.

20. The proposal in the consultation was that while 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.

21. The statutory duties would require Scottish Ministers to set out a statement of policy on food. This would be required to cover food production and consumption issues, and compatibility with relevant EU obligations would be essential. In setting out this statement of policy, Scottish Ministers would also need:

  • To include indicators or measures of success.
  • To have regard to the statement of policy on food.
  • To consult on a draft statement and to have regard to the consultation responses.
  • To publish the statement of policy and to lay it before the Scottish Parliament, for information rather than approval.
  • To report every two years on implementation of the policy and to set out information on the indicators or measures of success. This report would be published and laid before the Scottish Parliament in order to ensure transparency and accountability.
  • To meet the statutory requirement to have regard to relevant international obligations and guidance; relevant instruments and guidance would be specified in secondary legislation.

22. Similar requirements would also be placed on specified public authorities with relevant food-related functions.

23. 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.

24. The first question asked,

Q1: 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?

25. A total of 706 consultation respondents opted to provide a response to this question. The overwhelming majority (88%) of these respondents either agreed or strongly agreed 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. Only very small numbers (5%) of consultation respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed.


  Strongly agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly disagree Not answered
Campaigning / advocacy (13) 3 10 - - - -
Community group (10) 1 5 - 1 1 2
Faith group (10) 6 4 - - - -
Food / food retail / producer / distributor (17) 9 5 3 - - -
NHS / Health (12) 6 6 - - - -
Local authority (16) 2 10 1 - - 3
Representative body / Trade Union (16) 1 8 2 1 - 4
Third sector (food) (16) 2 12 - 1 - 1
Third sector (not food) (35) 3 22 3 1 - 6
Education / Academic / Research (14) 2 11 1 - - -
Other (16) 2 10 1 - - 3
Total organisations 37 103 11 4 1 19
Individuals 193 289 40 16 12 77
Total respondents 230 392 51 20 13 96

26. Consultation respondents were then asked to explain their answer; 618 respondents provided comments. Thirty-six percent either generally expressed a commitment to a right to food, or agreed with the Scottish Government wanting to take measures to ensure the right to food, without explicitly asking for the right to food to be included in the Good Food Nation bill. Smaller, but still significant, numbers stated their agreement with the framework approach, more so among organisations than individuals.

27. Very large numbers of consultation respondents made comments about aspects they felt should be built into the framework outline, perceptions being that these would help with the successful implementation of the policies. The largest proportion (including half of all responding organisations) stated that it was essential that the statements or proposals need a holistic or whole system approach. The policy framework is envisaged by these respondents as involving all relevant sectors or relevant groups, as the policies must relate to all parts of the food system. Examples of groupings perceived as relevant and therefore needing to have involvement were given by these respondents and most frequently included:

  • Public bodies.
  • Private bodies.
  • Government Departments.
  • Farmers.
  • Scientists.
  • People visiting foodbanks.
  • Health professionals.
  • Food producers / distributors / retailers.

28. The following two quotations illustrate some of the points made by respondents.

"Achieving a true transformation of food systems requires a holistic approach – one engaging all stakeholders and deploying a wide array of actions such as improved policy, increased investment, expanded infrastructure, farmer capacity-building, consumer behaviour change and improved resource management." (Other)

"Government and public bodies should involve lots of different groups and individuals in making the Good Food Nation plan reality because food should be the concern of everyone in society. Just as importantly, Ministers and public bodies should foster this collaboration in a way that makes it easy for people to understand the plan and to have their voices listened to." (Faith Organisation)

29. Some 36% of consultation respondents required clarity that, or were in favour of, the right to food either being put into law or having statutory obligations in order to be effective. Equally large numbers of consultation respondents (particularly among organisations) were of the opinion that the proposals need a strong reporting framework, in terms of having measurable progress standards and an honest and clear reporting framework; smaller numbers specified that the proposals needed inbuilt accountability. Small numbers of consultation respondents were in favour of a shorter reporting period than five years. As demonstrated by a local authority;

"Although it is recognised that food issues feature in some of the Government's current international obligations and commitments (i.e. UN sustainable development goals), there should be a clear outcome of the Bill to include the 'right to food' being enshrined in Scots law. To explicitly include a right to food in law will better help the Government meet their international obligations, national ambitions, and local delivery."

30. Small numbers of consultation respondents requested more clarity or detail about policy oversight, with suggestions including the need for independent experts or an independent oversight body; several of these respondents suggested the reinstatement of the Independent Food Commission to meet this aim. Very small numbers of consultation respondents noted that the proposals must be achievable.

31. Significant numbers of consultation respondents (25%) were in favour of a strong or bold policy framework generally. Some consultation respondents (including one in five organisations) were concerned about wording in the document being too ambivalent or non-committal. Many of these respondents noted that the framework needs to have precise objectives and /or targets with specific timescales. Similarly, a few consultation respondents expressed concerns about the wording in the document (e.g. 'having regard to…') being too soft and needing strengthening. As noted by a local authority;

"An overarching framework set out in legislation would go substantially further than existing pieces of legislation and policy that focus on one part of the food system e.g. climate change, diet etc. A vision of the future to which Scotland aspires can then be implemented through more targeted policies with timetables, implementation plans, success indicators and reporting arrangements."

32. A significant number (19%) of consultation respondents agreed on the need to have due regard to international obligations, such as EU regulations and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, in policy-making. Many of these respondents also expressed the desirability of incorporating or taking note of other countries' good working practices.

33. A need to avoid conflict with or dovetail with other policies or initiatives was noted by significant numbers of organisations responding to the consultation in particular. Examples of policies perceived as requiring attention during policy-making included:

  • Local policies.
  • Transport policies.
  • Fair Trade commitments.
  • Climate change goals.
  • Healthy eating policies.
  • Food and drinks policies.
  • Human rights legislation.

"We acknowledge that food is a complex topic that spans and impacts on multiple portfolios and policy areas. As a result of this it is essential for legislation to be clear and robust enough to ensure that everyone is reporting against and working towards the same priorities." (Third Sector (non-food))

34. Small numbers of consultation respondents suggested there should be a similar requirement or duty placed on larger businesses (e.g. supermarkets, large producers) to outline or publish their own food policies so they can be held to account.

35. A need for policy-making to be comprehensible to all, in terms of statements being in plain English or language that everyone can understand, was frequently noted, particularly by individuals.

36. Additionally, very small numbers of consultation respondents noted that the proposals must be achievable.

37. A very large number of consultation respondents chose to focus on specific areas for consideration within the policy statements. The most frequently cited area was the need to ensure sustainability, by one in three consultation respondents. Many of these mentions were in general terms, but specific topics for consideration which were pinpointed by large numbers of these respondents included the following:

  • Environmentally-friendly farming.
  • Introduction of sustainable farming production methods (making the best use of land, more organic / less intensive farming, etc.).
  • Climate change.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Biodiversity loss.
  • Limiting pesticide use.
  • Soil health and degradation.

38. As noted by an organisation in the third sector (non-food);

"Food … is one of the biggest ways that humans have an impact on the environment. Globally, the food system contributes 19-29% of all greenhouse gas emissions. In Scotland, we know that agriculture and related land use accounts for around 25% of our emissions, and for the majority of our methane and nitrous oxide emissions (68% and 79% respectively), both more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. We know that the greatest factors that contribute to wildlife decline are changes to and loss of habitat, changes to and loss of food sources, chemicals like pesticides and fertilisers and other types of pollution. All of these are often associated with agriculture and food production." (Third Sector (non-food))

39. A particular area pointed out by large numbers of consultation respondents as being beneficial for sustainability was local, small-scale or community growing of food, with increased provision of allotments and the creation of local food growing strategies earmarked as potential mechanisms to aid uptake.

40. The need to address food poverty and food insecurity was cited by a significant minority (28%) of consultation respondents. Rising food bank or food parcel use, and a perceived need to raise the incomes of, or alter the welfare system for, affected households, were stressed by many of these consultees. Consultation respondents, and in particular organisations, also frequently raised issues surrounding affordability and accessibility relating to Good Food purchasing. Particular concerns raised were:

  • Local availability or access problems (particularly in rural or remote areas).
  • The need for equality of pricing for Good Food with other foods (currently seen as more expensive).
  • Added expense for those with dietary intolerances or requirements.

"We feel a paradigm shift is required. Whilst it is correct to have an integrative approach in the rolling out of the Good Food Nation policy, joining the dots between interrelated policies across national government, local government, health authorities and others, we feel it is most definitely time to put consumers centre stage, in particular those in areas of poverty and deprivation. There are many communities in our country where daily access to affordable and healthy food is not available, including in areas where we operate." (Third Sector (Food))

41. Nearly one in five consultation respondents focused on the need to consider public health in Good Food proposals, with many of these noting links between health issues and food consumed, and others desiring NHS involvement. The need for a consensus as to what constitutes good food and a healthy diet, given differing perceptions, was postulated by small numbers of consultation respondents. The differing dietary needs of children, adults and the elderly were seen as not well promoted at present, as well as quantity and quality requirements. A need to address unhealthy diets was specified by a number of respondents, in particular by health-related organisations; suggestions included:

  • Regulating sugar (noting the already implemented sugar tax).
  • Regulating salt (noting Action on Salt).
  • Regulating fats.
  • Tackling obesity.
  • Tackling other unhealthy food-related disorders (e.g. diabetes).
  • Reducing the quantity of processed foods.

"Analysis from national diet surveys indicates that adults on a low income in Scotland consume fewer fruit and vegetables and consume more (non-diet) soft drinks. Similar disparities have been identified in studies examining household consumption data, where households in the most deprived areas consumed fewer fruit and vegetables and less oily rich fish than households in the least deprived areas. Being overweight, obese and / or having a large waist circumference is the most significant risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes, accounting for 80–85 per cent of the overall risk of developing the condition. Reducing the number of people in the Scotland who are overweight or obese would reduce the risk of people developing Type 2 diabetes." (Third Sector (non-food))

42. A need to maintain or improve food quality in terms of production and processing standards was regarded as important by consultation respondents. Significant numbers of these respondents suggested the following improvements to the current food system:

  • Improved nutritional food quality.
  • Less mass production.
  • Improved public authority procurement and sourcing.
  • Improved school and hospital food and food practices.

"We strongly feel the initial focus should be with Public Procurement as the public is neither getting value for money nor good quality, sustainable choices. (…) have been the most proactive in generating more competition by splitting up the various lots (meat, fish, confectionary, dairy, dry store cupboard, etc) for tender. This means that local companies, many who are family run, and tax paying, can enter and compete with larger offshore companies." (Food (Retail / Producer / Distributor))

43. Consideration should also be given to animal welfare, according to a significant minority of consultation respondents. Particular issues raised included suffering during export, confinement of hens and intensive salmon farming.

44. A similar number of consultation respondents thought there was a need to consider the pay and conditions of food industry workers, particularly in terms of gaining a living wage or simply being paid more.

45. Significant numbers of consultation respondents wanted the proposals to consider food waste and how to reduce it, and small numbers of these mentioned the impact of other food-related waste (e.g. plastics, packaging, and water).

46. Educating children and informing the public about the 'Right to Food' and how to make the right food choices was seen as an essential part of the Good Food Nation proposals by a significant minority of consultation respondents.

47. Other points raised and suggestions made regarding the implementation of the Good Food Nation proposals, each by a few consultation respondents, included:

  • Proposals being extended to include the private sector and encouraging businesses to adopt good food processes.
  • The private sector needing to have the same standards as the public sector.
  • Fiscal policies (e.g. taxation, subsidies) should be used to aid good food processes (e.g. to reduce plastic packaging or remove meat subsidies).
  • There is a need to ensure Scottish producers are not overburdened or competitively disadvantaged by the proposals.
  • Education and training will be needed for those involved in the food system.

48. A small minority of consultation respondents (including some agreeing with the policy proposals) cited concerns with the policy, mostly around how it would work in practice.

49. The majority of these concerns centred on the perceived ineffectiveness of previous national food policies (e.g. the Diet and Obesity Plan, the Food and Industry Plan). Reasons postulated for the lack of success included these plans only being voluntary in nature and lacking success indicators.

50. Smaller numbers of consultation respondents, and local authorities in particular, worried about implementation costs, in terms of funding and resources, for local authorities.

51. Very small numbers of consultation respondents also cited concerns about the following:

  • Funding or support needs for community food projects or smaller enterprises.
  • The impact of perceived poor international or imported food standards (e.g. from USA).
  • Increased bureaucracy.
  • Implementation costs for the private sector.
  • Satisfying differing needs having unintended consequences for some sectors (e.g. urban vs. rural situations).

52. Individuals who responded to the Trussell Trust campaign noted their agreement with the proposal put forward at this question. However, they also cited concerns over the increasing use of foodbanks and the need to ensure people earn enough money to be able to access good quality food. They also noted the importance of the evaluation and reporting of findings, and felt that monitoring systems need to be implemented in order to assess the impact of Good Food Nation.

53. Similarly, those who responded via the Scottish Food Coalition campaign noted their support for a Good Food Nation Bill and outlined five key elements for inclusion. These were the 'right to food' in law; setting targets for improving the food system; setting new requirements for public bodies; having a Scottish National Food Plan; and the creation of a statutory Food Commission. Other issues and concerns raised by individuals responding to this campaign included:

  • Increased encouragement of the use of local / seasonal food products and increased growing of food by individuals in allotments.
  • A need for higher levels of organic food production.
  • Concerns over the environmental impact of food production and how this impacts upon biodiversity; as well as concerns over food waste, food packaging and a need for a greater emphasis on sustainability.
  • A need for more education about food and increased levels of healthy cooking.
  • A need to improve diets.
  • Concerns over animal welfare.
  • Food needing to be affordable for all and allied concerns over an increased use of food banks.
  • Concerns over food poverty and inequalities, and workers' rights.
  • More support for farmers who use good farming methods, such as less intensive farming and more diversity.
  • Concerns that farmers and farm workers are not paid a living wage.
  • Promotion of plant-based diets and less meat production.
  • Concern over the power of supermarkets and how they operate; and a need for them to support local farmers.
  • Requests for more legislation such as taxes on unhealthy foods.
  • Concerns over the problems of accessing healthy food in all areas of Scotland.

54. Comments from the other two campaigns echoed points made in this section of the report.

55. Having ascertained views on the framework proposals, the second question of the consultation then asked,

Q2: 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?

56. A total of 702 consultees, across all sub-groups, responded to this question. As shown in the following table, almost all (93%) of consultation respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the Government should encourage and enable businesses to play their part in achieving the Good Food Nation ambition.


  Strongly agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly disagree Not answered
Campaigning / advocacy (13) 10 3 - - - -
Community gp (10) 5 1 - - 1 3
Faith group (10) 8 2 - - - -
Food / food retail / producer / dist (17) 13 3 - - 1 -
NHS / Health (12) 7 4 1 - - -
Local authority (16) 8 5 - - - 3
Trade Union (16) 4 8 - - - 4
Third sec (food) (16) 8 6 1 - - 1
Third sector (not food) (35) 16 11 1 1 - 6
Education / Academ / Res (14) 8 5 - - 1 -
Other (16) 8 3 1 - 1 3
Total organisations 95 51 4 1 4 20
Individuals 424 83 18 14 8 80
Total respondents 519 134 22 15 12 100

57. A total of 613 consultation respondents gave an explanation for their answer. Some 28% of these respondents were of the opinion that all businesses which are part of the food industry must be involved in achieving the Good Food Nation ambition. Lists of types of business commonly stated as being part of the food industry by respondents included food producers, processors, distributors, retailers and farmers.

58. In addition, a fifth of consultation respondents stated that private sector food businesses must be involved and will have a big part to play; with other consultation respondents saying the policies will not work without them. Furthermore, equally large numbers pointed out that businesses are key to the food system and have huge influence in the running of the food sector. 17% of consultation respondents noted that the Good Food Nation ambition requires a holistic approach with all sectors able to play their part in partnership format if it is to be successful.

"Everyone involved in the process of providing food has a role to play. Businesses play a significant part from growing, processing, selling and preparing our food. They are an integral part of the supply chain and we need them to participate fully in order for the Government to be able to ensure a sustainable and just food system." (Faith organisation)

59. On the topic of the extent to which government should encourage and enable businesses to play their part, almost half (47%) of the consultation respondents who answered this question thought that businesses needed to be supported, encouraged or incentivised, as opposed to being forced or regulated to play their part in making the necessary changes. A much smaller proportion (around one in ten) thought that enabling and encouraging would be insufficient on its own and were in favour of regulating businesses or making them legally bound to ensure policy aims are met. That said, significant numbers of consultation respondents said that government has an essential role to play in leading by example, having the powers, resources and influence to enable positive changes.

60. As noted by organisations in the academic / research / education sector and the food (retail / producer / distributor) sector;

"It is the responsibility of the Scottish Government to create a proactive culture of compliance and best practice in Scotland's food sector. It cannot be assumed that private businesses and other organisations will follow a public lead by Scottish Ministers and specified public bodies without incentivisation, facilitation and potentially statutory intervention (though the latter should be a last resort)." (Academic / research / education)

"The Scottish Government can do a lot to encourage businesses to help us meet these goals. For example, they can offer financial support to businesses which make changes that move us in the right direction, and they can make rules that limit business decisions and practice that make it harder to meet these goals. They can require PLCs to report on food policy progress in their annual reports e.g. how easy it is for their staff to access real food (not processed) in places of work, from viewpoint of affordability of quality food, encouragement of local supply chains." Food (Retail / Producer / Distributor)

61. Nearly one in five (18%) of consultation respondents perceived that fiscal stimuli (in the form of fines, subsidies or taxes) would be needed to help achieve the Good Food Nation goals; examples of present and future stimuli were mentioned including:

  • Sugar tax.
  • Minimum alcohol pricing.
  • Carrier bag charge.
  • Taxing non-health foods or food businesses.

62. In addition, a small minority of consultation respondents thought that businesses should be legally bound to prepare statements of policy on food.

63. Further points were made by very small numbers of consultation respondents as follows:

  • It is best to start the Good Food Nation plan with public, government and local authority procurement, rolling it out to businesses later on.
  • Uncertainty about encouraging or enabling of smaller businesses because they may not have the capacity to cope.
  • More clarity is needed (a few respondents were unclear as to the meaning of 'encourage and enable').
  • More research or detail is needed before statements of policy can be created.

64. A significant proportion of consultation respondents (28%) also made a number of points about various changes which businesses may need to make in order to help realise the Good Food Nation ambition (without specifying whether or not Good Food Nation legislation needs to cover these areas), as follows:

  • Suggested changes of approach from supermarkets (e.g. reducing food waste, having a local produce section or influencing their suppliers positively).
  • Suggested changes to farming and agricultural practices (less artificial chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides, greenhouse gas emissions, more organic farming, animal welfare changes).
  • Large or multinational businesses or companies which have detrimental health, social or environmental impacts need to be held to account (e.g. stopping practices which hinder progress, reducing or taking away their ability to dictate or lobby).
  • Ensuring Scottish, local or small businesses are not disproportionately hampered by Good Food Nation requirements or implications.
  • Specific support for small or local food businesses and enterprises (e.g. building on work done by local producer networks or local authority partnerships, or funding for small, sustainable or healthy food producers and community food projects).

65. A small number of consultation respondents foresaw that there would be benefits, financial or otherwise, to businesses which were recognised to be Good Food Nation compliant or 'doing the right thing'.

"… the suggestion that placing requirements on businesses with regards to food would 'unfairly disadvantage them compared to their competitors' fails to recognise the business opportunity of pushing the boundaries towards sustainable and socially beneficial food. Scotland has the potential for innovation, production of higher quality products, and becoming a world-leading and future-proof business sector." (Third Sector (non-food))

66. Many (42%) consultation respondents chose to focus on specific areas in which change would be required in order to make the Good Food Nation ambition a reality, most of which reinforced their answers to Question 1 but in a business context.

67. Chief amongst these, as in Q1, was the need to focus on sustainability and the environment. As noted by a representative body / trade union;

"In a Good Food Nation, short supply chains should be a priority, to give the best chance for social, environmental and local economic benefits to be delivered. The proposed Scottish National Investment Bank should have in its remit a requirement to support those businesses which contribute most to becoming a Good Food Nation, and which have the most positive impact on communities across Scotland and on the environment."

68. Other changes were suggested, without specifying whether or not Good Food Nation legislation needs to cover them, by significant numbers of consultation respondents, including:

  • Encouragement for the production and sales of healthy and nutritious food and discouragement for processed and fast food (e.g. more fruit and vegetables, less salt and sugar).
  • A need to ensure higher quality food production and food standards.
  • A need to ensure affordable good food pricing (equalising the playing field between healthy and unhealthy foods).
  • A need for more local produce (less imported food, cutting down on transport and storage, improving freshness and instilling 'food sovereignty').
  • Support needed for food industry workers (pay and conditions).
  • More focus needed on food accessibility (some localities are 'food deserts', access problems for the elderly).
  • A need to tackle food waste (e.g. by community harvests, preservation incentives).

69. Other remarks made by consultation respondents suggested improving specific areas of the food industry. A significant number of these respondents desired public sector food procurement improvements featuring:

  • A focus on sustainability.
  • The inclusion of statements of food policy in tenders.
  • Initiating a level playing field.
  • The prevention of price from being the dominant factor in decision-making.
  • Including the proximity of production and environmental-friendliness as criteria in decision-making.

70. Other areas cited by consultation respondents as needing improvement towards the Good Food Nation goals included:

  • Needing to properly educate and inform so that people and organisations can make the best food choices.
  • Improving school food and school eating habits.
  • Targeting human health and wellbeing issues such as obesity.

71. Finally, small numbers of consultation respondents made the following observations:

  • There is a need to link Good Food Nation proposals to land use reform (e.g. protection from housebuilding).
  • There is a need to look at and learn from the experiences of other countries (e.g. the New Nordic Food Programme, Canada's National Food Guide).
  • Market forces in the form of profits or economics or exports should not be a focus.
  • There is a need to prioritise justice and fairness within the Good Food Nation proposals.

72. Very few concerns regarding the encouragement or enabling of businesses were raised by consultation respondents; the very small number who did foresee problems cited the following general issues:

  • The proposals needed to be bolder and the bar set higher.
  • Concerns about administration and bureaucracy burdens and costs.
  • Possible clashes with other food industry policies (e.g. the 'Ambition 2030' growth strategy).

73. Individuals who responded via the Trussell Trust campaign strongly agreed that the Government should encourage and enable businesses to play their part, with comments that there is an important role for businesses to play in the Good Food Nation vision. They focused on a desire for it to be mandatory for businesses to sell affordable nutritious food and to pay staff a fair wage. They also noted that businesses should be fined if they are found to be wasting food that could be distributed elsewhere in the local community and that rules on food safety and food distribution should be relaxed to make it easier for charities to collect and redistribute food.



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