UN expert warns of brexit threat to Scottish ‘right to food’ advances

UN rapporteur to visit Scottish Government to discuss Good Food Nation Bill

THE UN rapporteur on the “right to food” will visit Scotland tomorrow to warn of the dangers brexit could bring to Scottish action to promote food justice.

Hilal Elver, whose job it is to advise on the establishment of the “right to food” enshrined in the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), will meet with the Scottish Government’s equalities secretary Angela Constance and give a lecture at Edinburgh University. 

The UN official has been drawn to Scotland by the Scottish Government’s Good Food Nation Bill, which aims to improve Scots’ access to high quality food through a range of methods. Food campaigners have been pressing to make the bill more ambitious in recent months, and include the right for all Scots to access all their food requirements.

Ahead of her visit, Elver said: “My visit to Scotland has been to inform and inspire decision-makers on the opportunity Scotland has to be a European leader on the right to food.”

“A hard brexit brings many new challenges to Scotland’s right to food obligations, including risks to farm incomes from export tariffs and unregulated cheap imports.” Hilal Elver, UN rapporteur

“I congratulate the Scottish Government on the progress it has made so far, and encourage them to show leadership by protecting and progressing the right to food in the Good Food Nation Bill.”

“Scotland has some challenges on the right to food, including high levels of food insecurity and diet related health inequalities, problems with access to land, and an agricultural subsidy scheme that is not aligned to social, environmental, and climate commitments – but you also have many opportunities.”

“A hard brexit brings many new challenges to Scotland’s right to food obligations, including risks to farm incomes from export tariffs and unregulated cheap imports, but it is also a chance to rethink outdated policies – particularly on agricultural subsidies.”

The aims of the new food rights legislation are to create far greater public awareness of food as a public issue, create national and local structures to improve food access and choices, to promote locally and nationally produced food and drink and to ensure ready access to nutrition for all citizens.

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Campaigners from groups such as Nourish Scotland have been lobbying from Scotland to Geneva for governing bodies to take seriously the threats to public health and the effects of food inequality produced by the twenty first century corporate dominated food industry.

Activists believe the Bill, the measures for which were pass by SNP members at party conference in Aberdeen in 2015, represents “real progress” towards securing the right to food in Scotland, which can set down a marker for the rest of the continent.

Pete Richie, director of Nourish Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government is making real progress, for example by starting to monitor household food insecurity in the Scottish Health Survey. This means we’ll have a baseline to measure the impact of policy against.”

 “But the right to food is about more than tackling acute food insecurity – it’s also the right to access nutritious and culturally acceptable food in a dignified way. And it means building sustainability into the food system for the long term, in terms of access to land, tackling climate change and safeguarding biodiversity.”

 “We’re calling for a cross-cutting rights-based approach because food cuts across so many parts of our lives – it doesn’t make sense to just look at food and poverty in isolation without thinking about the impacts on health, workers' rights, access to land, farm incomes, environment, or climate change.

“The forthcoming Good Food Nation Bill should set a new direction for a resilient and fair food system, which nourishes all of Scotland’s people – and should establish a transparent process for monitoring progress across the board.”

“We’re calling for a cross-cutting rights-based approach because food cuts across so many parts of our lives – it doesn’t make sense to just look at food and poverty in isolation without thinking about the impacts on health, workers' rights, access to land, farm incomes, environment, or climate change.” Pete Richie, Nourish Scotland

Welcoming the Elver to Scotland, Constance said: “Our £1m Fair Food Fund supports local organisations and community groups to reduce reliance on emergency food provision through other means, for example by providing nutritious food and teaching people how to cook fresh meals. We are also exploring ways to give further and better effect to the right to food in Scots Law, and whether that could support us to tackle the very real problem of hunger with a response based on human rights and dignity for all.

“I hope that the Special Rapporteur will look at the positive work we are doing in Scotland and take that knowledge to other countries and ensure we all work together to address the underlying causes of food poverty.”

Elver will address an Edinburgh University seminar on food rights tomorrow from 12pm. You can reserve a ticket here.

Picture courtesy of Sarah Han

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