ACTIVISTS will gather outside Holyrood on Tuesday to lobby MSPs about the legislation they will be discussing inside Parliament: The Good Food Nation Bill. The wheels of government can grind slowly. This piece of law is now eight years in the making.

The bill promises an unparalleled opportunity to join the dots between food production, environmental commitments to achieve net zero and, crucially, ensuring people have access to healthy food as standard.

The Scottish Food Coalition is taking a keen interest in the progress of this bill. Nourish Scotland, a charity driving food policy in Scotland, is part of the coalition. Pete Ritchie is the director. An organic farmer based in the Borders, Pete has been following The Good Food Nation Bill for six years now. His informed eye assesses both the practice and the policy outlined in the proposed law.

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“We think the bill needs to be strengthened. We want stronger language in there about sustainable food. There’s no reason why people in Scotland shouldn’t be able to afford healthy food that’s good for the planet too,” Pete says. “We want to see an independent food commission with a remit to look across the whole issue to make sure there is joined-up thinking, and that meaningful progress is being made, a kind of cross between a sheepdog and a watchdog.”

The Good Food Nation Bill has significant potential. It places a duty on both central and local government to consider food-related issues in relation to social wellbeing, the environment, health, and economic development.

Legislators in Holyrood would also have to keep in mind international conventions, such as the rights of children, and ensure laws did not discriminate against women (the two-child cap and the horrific “rape clause” of Westminster legislation is a grim example of policies where women and children are hit hard). Central government and local authorities would be required to publish progress reports every two years and to review their plans every five years.

The Good Food Nation Bill sets out sound objectives, seeking to ensure Scotland’s food and drink producers bring the best of our nation’s produce to our shelves, that we all have access to adequate good food, and that both dietary disease and the environmental impact of our food systems decline.

Amanda Burgauer became the director of Common Weal, a policy think tank, after several years as the chairperson of Scottish Rural Action. She is firmly grounded in the realities of Scottish agriculture and the pressures on people living in Scotland’s rural, island, and coastal communities. She is clear about why Common Weal is part of the Scottish Food Coalition.

“Without food, nothing else works. Scottish food and drink is so important to our economy. Currently, we export a lot of the best of our produce while importing much to our domestic market. Our farmers have been using agro-ecological methods for generations but are undercut by low quality, high intensity produce from overseas,” Amanda says.

She will be outside Holyrood on Tuesday, lobbying MSPs as they go in to debate the second reading of the bill and said: “The Good Food Nation Bill is a good first step, but it must be stronger in terms of scale and scope.

“We need a just transition for Scotland’s food sector: a social mechanism which provides a balance between food producers, those who own the land, and those who eat the food. None of this works when we have one-quarter of our nation living in poverty.”

Our politicians stand on the brink of passing legislation which could be transformative, shaping our health, our economy, and our landscape for generations to come. If you care about Scotland’s food and drink sector, our environment, and eradicating hunger in our nation, now is a good time to contact your MSP.

Ruth Watson is the founder of the Keep Scotland the Brand campaign