SCOTLAND is poised to become the first part of the UK to consider introducing a universal right to food under radical proposals to be published next month to tackle health, social and economic inequalities.

The move is to be included in a government consultation on a Good Food Nation Bill and could mean all government policy would have to be compatible with addressing food poverty and proposed legislation.

It may mean, for instance, that social security reforms could be blocked if they were considered to risk making the problem of food insecurity worse.

READ MORE: Should we legislate against food poverty?

The development could also see the setting up of a Scottish Food Commissioner to monitor progress and report to Holyrood on how targets are being met to combat food poverty, obesity, improve healthy eating and reducing food waste.

One possible consequence could be that small stores in rural areas are barred from charging higher prices for essentials such as bread, milk and vegetables than city supermarkets.

“The right to food would mean that government is under a duty to protect and fulfil that right, it would mean that its policies have to be organised around this guiding principle,” said Pete Ritchie, director of food justice group Nourish Scotland and co-chair of the Scottish Food Coalition which has been speaking to ministers ahead of the consultation.

“It could mean, for example if there were benefit changes which meant that more people were going to struggle to put food on the table, then you could go back to government and say this policy can’t proceed as it would breach the right to food.

“It’s asking government to organise social security, the health system and access to food so that everyone can afford to feed themselves and their families well. It’s about changing the system, not simply accepting that some people are casualties of the current situation and have to go to food banks but organising policy so that there are no casualties.”

He added: “Another issue is faced by people who live in rural Scotland where people can face paying 50 per cent more for their food than those in cities. So should we be intervening in the market so that basic foods, bread, milk, meat vegetables should be the same price where ever you are?”

Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Connectivity, confirmed plans for a Good Food Nation Bill in a recent parliamentary question.

He told MSPs: “Our plans for Scotland to become a good food nation are continuing. The Scottish Food Commission recently submitted its recommendations for the proposed Good Food Nation Bill, and they are currently being considered across the Scottish Government with a view to a consultation being held this year.

“The consultation will inform the content of a Good Food Nation Bill that will be introduced during this parliamentary session. The consultation will be launched later this year and will be open for 12 weeks. We are investigating ways to inform the public about it.”

Responding to a report by the Independent Working Group on Food Poverty in 2016 Equalities Secretary Angela Constance confirmed she was considering enshrining a “right to food” in Scots law.

She said: “Food poverty is a symptom of wider poverty and the UK Government’s harmful welfare cuts and benefit sanctions regime has clearly pushed more and more people into an income crisis, increasing the demand for emergency food.

“We want to create a sustainable solution to tackling food poverty across Scotland, and therefore I am committed to exploring a range of options.”