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Food And Drink Initiatives In Scotland - Can They Deliver? - Articles Surfing

Food issues seem to have featured high on the agenda so far in 2008. Television programmes ranging from Jamie Oliver and the plight of chickens to 'Kill it, Cook it, Eat it' have all sought to highlight our production methods. Hungry for Success, the healthy eating programme in schools, is doing well at primary level but could do better at secondary level. Scotland Food and Drink, the new organisation to come to fruition as a result of Scottish Food and Drink, is going to hold its 1st national conference and if all that is not enough, Richard Lochhead the Cabinet Secretary has announced his intention of creating a National Food Policy for Scotland.

The cynic in me tells me we have seen all of this before. Endless talking shops and quangos spouting motherhood and apple pie, whilst using large quantities of taxpayer's money and achieving very little. Multiple retailers will still ultimately rule the roost, doing essentially what they please with processors and primary producers dancing to their tune before many surrender to the exhaustion of bankruptcy, takeover or simply fade away. Government will never quite put its money where its mouth is and the hardy successful exceptions representing a minute part of the Scottish food industry will be feted as heroes with the magic solution. This will all be done against the background of blaming Brussels for all our woes and a potential credit crunch.

The optimist says fantastic; we now have a new regime that is finally going to grip all these diverse groups that together make up the Scottish food and drink industry. We have found someone to ensure a fair crack of the whip to all parts of the food supply chain. We have someone with the vision and leadership to ensure that there is a consistent supply of quality produce to sell both at home and abroad. Only Government with access to the necessary environmental and production levers can do this, especially in our less favoured areas. Only they can stabilise sectors subject to huge pressures of cost and pricing such as milk, pigs and poultry. Only they can prevent our beef and sheep sectors going into rapid decline.

It will only happen however when buyers consistently and regularly elect to buy our products and are prepared to pay more for them because they believe they are worth it, whether on quality, animal welfare, environmental or production grounds. Television programmes sensitise people to issues and cause a significant response which is then normally pretty short lived. It rarely extends to commercial sectors and the public sector is unmoved by such matters. Our vision and leadership need to embrace this education backed up with concrete examples. It needs to transcend all governmental departments; health, education, enterprise and local authorities; and what is more is that it requires genuine buy-in from those involved. It truly needs to embrace the Governments ambition and make Scotland's food industry contribute to making a wealthier, fairer, greener, healthier, safer, stronger and smarter Scotland.

Submitted by:

Michael Gibson

Michael Gibson is owner and director of Macbeth's Butchers and Edinvale Farm in North East Scotland. He has held positions with the Food Standards Agency and the Macaulay Institute amongst other positions.



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