Pete Ritchie is the director of Nourish Scotland

TOMORROW is Human Rights Day, an international celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It’s an aspirational charter, drawn up in the shadow of the Second World War.

It’s easy to be cynical when across the world so many people’s rights to a free and dignified life are violated by war, poverty, slavery, detention, torture and discrimination, but tomorrow is nevertheless a chance for people and governments to reflect on what has been achieved and the road ahead.

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Where next for Scotland? We have had peace here for all of those 70 years. We have strong institutions in a democracy where our devolved Parliament has strengthened accountability and participation.  

While many challenges remain, there has been real progress in 
reducing discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, disability and 

The National:

But our country is still scarred by inequality and poverty, with huge gaps in wealth, health and life expectancy. Article 25 of that Universal Declaration states: ‘‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.’’

In Scotland, in 2018, this right is hollow for too many Scots. The Scottish Government has spent almost £400 million in the last four years to mitigate the impact of austerity, but despite this many households have slipped from 
“just about managing’ to “not quite making it”. 

READ MORE: Potential for Scotland to take bold action on human rights

The recent report from UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston called out the UK Government for its “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach”.
Food bank use continues to rise, and behind this the Scottish Government’s figures on food insecurity show that worrying about not having enough to eat is now commonplace in our land of food and drink.  Some 12% of single parent households ran out of food last year.  

The right to food is spelled out fully in the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, which the UK ratified 40 years ago.  But it’s not been brought into UK law, so it has no teeth. 

Scotland has devolved powers on human rights, and tomorrow the Government should commit to making the Covenant part of Scots law. And to make clear that the forthcoming Good Food Nation Bill will have the right to food at its heart.

The right to food does not end food banks overnight – but it sets Scotland on a path of joined up policy to make sure that everyone has reliable access to healthy sustainable food for themselves and their family.  

If the right to food was part of UK law, then rolling out Universal Credit in Glasgow just before Christmas wouldn’t just be criminal.  It would be illegal, and subject to challenge in the courts.  If the right to food was part of Scots law, then Derek Mackay’s Budget on Wednesday would have to show  how it is helping to make this right a reality for all.

Scotland doesn’t yet  have devolved powers over the bulk of social security or other economic levers – but it does have powers over human rights and tomorrow is a great opportunity to use those powers well.