7. Independence from Government and food industry
60. Michael Matheson, Minister for Public Health has said: "The new body will be at arms-length from the Scottish Government. We will establish a new body which is independent, evidence-based, consumer-focused and transparent."
61. The independence of the body is vital to ensure that consumers trust and follow the advice the body gives, particularly during outbreaks of food-borne diseases.
62. An appropriate governance structure can underpin independence. The FSA was constituted as a non-Ministerial department, with a Board made up of non-executive members who are appointed to act in the public interest. A similar arrangement could be an appropriate governance structure to underpin the independence of the new food body. As a non-Ministerial department, the new body would be part of the Scottish Administration rather than the Scottish Government, and would therefore be accountable to the Scottish Parliament rather than Scottish Ministers.
63. Confidence and trust in the new body could be helped by building safeguards into the legislation to set up the new food body, for example:
- An ability to independently provide advice and information, including on matters relating to the development of policy on food and feed safety and related matters, to any public authority (which would include, for example, local authorities or agencies of government) and to the public.
- An ability to publish its advice to Ministers, which would be an important factor in its influence and independence.
- The principle of regular review of the new food body by the appropriate parliamentary committee or scrutiny body.
- A requirement to produce a statement of its general objectives, including consulting with interested parties on the new food body's activities, facilitating proper consultation between the new food body and other Departments of Government, local authorities and other public authorities on matters of mutual interest, and ensuring that the new food body's activities and decisions are open and transparent to the public.
- A provision requiring the new food body to respond to any request from Ministers for information, support or advice on any matter within its remit, and allowing Ministers to direct the new food body to do or not do a specific function only if Ministers believe it has not followed key operating principles relating to having assessed costs, benefits and risks.
Question 15: Do you agree with the suggested approach to ensuring the new food body's independence from Government and food industry? Do you have any further suggestions for how the new food body could best establish and maintain its position as an arms length part of Government? Please give reasons.
Question 16: Do you have any further comments, or suggestions, on the creation of a new food body for Scotland that are not covered by any of the previous questions?
Email: Morris Fraser
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