"WHEN it comes to food, Scotland has all the ingredients,” says Pete Ritchie, director of campaigning food organisation Nourish. Those ingredients, according to Ritchie, include plenty of land, plenty of sea – and though not something we are always thankful for – plenty of rain, all essential for food production.

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And the food produced is amazing, he claims … creel-caught prawns, grass-fed beef, top notch strawberries and heritage varieties of potatoes and wheat. We have skilled farmers, innovative food businesses, world-leading science, and food-orientated community groups to celebrate.

It is this rich potential that is driving the organisation’s support – as part of the Scottish Food Coalition – for a Good Food Bill, with the Scottish Government committed to starting a country-wide consultation in the new year.

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Campaigning organisations believe that our food system cuts across an unrivalled number of social issues from obesity to inequality. A record number of Scots now depend on food banks. Food production is linked to environmental concerns, while agricultural jobs connect to worries about fair work. It plays an often key role in developing, and rebuilding, our communities.

“Scotland’s food system is very much part of the global food system, and shares many of the same problems,” adds Ritchie.

“It’s deeply unequal – households on low incomes are often food insecure, many jobs in food are poorly paid and insecure. It’s generating illness through selling us more and more calorie dense and highly-processed food. 

“It’s damaging the environment, with soils degraded, huge losses in biodiversity and generating around a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions – while a third of the food grown never gets eaten. Half of the food we eat in Scotland comes from abroad, so we have an environmental impact well beyond our shores.”

Organisations like Nourish hoped the Good Food Bill would be included in the programme for government back in September and were disappointed when it was not.

Determined to make the case, they have now recruited tens of food ambassadors whose role will be to reach out to their communities. They met yesterday for the first time.

Campaigners working to make good food more accessible in their communities, they are from diverse backgrounds and span Scotland. 

This Bill could be transformative, he argues, making Scotland not just fairer, greener and healthier – but also smarter and wealthier. 

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“Scotland’s food and drink industry is a huge part of our economy, and there’s an important role for exports,” he acknowledges.

“We can’t drink all our own whisky or eat all our own fish. But its reputation increasingly will rely on being able to demonstrate world-leading standards of sustainability.”

In other words, find a way to make sure that the wonderful food that Scotland’s land and sea produces reaches the plates of ordinary Scots.

Laura Curtis-Moss, Young Leaders Development Programme, Climate 2050 Group:

YOU can’t really address climate change without also thinking about food production, according to Curtis Moss, a member of campaigning organisation Climate 2050 Group’s Young Leaders programme, which works with tens of people aged 18-35 up and down Scotland.

She is also involved in Leith’s Crops in Pots community growing project and helped set up the Croft Carbon College project on the same site, which aims to raise environmental awareness in the local community with workshops on food, reducing waste, energy and active travel.

The main aim is to make it easier for people to be sustainable and she believes policy and legislation should be aiming to do that too. “At the moment it’s cheaper to go to the supermarket and buy a bag of frozen prawns from Thailand or India than buy some that have been locally produced,” she says.

“I decided to be a vegetarian because every shopping trip I did I had to think about the carbon footprint [of the food]. It would be so lovely to go into a supermarket and pick up some fish and know that it is Scottish and that the fisherman was paid a fair wage, or to buy beef and know that it’s local and hasn’t been given unnecessary antibiotics. But at the moment it is not easy to shop like that.”

She wants to be part of making sure the Good Food Bill happens. “We need to hear from all members of the population,” she says. “Food affects everything and everyone. It’s about making sure people have a voice and trying not to make assumptions about what is needed.”

Ruth Glasgow, director of the food Hub G63 in Drymen:

Laura Curtis-Moss, Young Leaders Development Programme, Climate 2050 Group

GLASGOW set up the community “hub” in the Stirlingshire village hall last year in an attempt to inspire locals to think about a more sustainable way of producing food.

It’s gone from strength to strength.

So far there’s an education programme with workshops covering issues like reducing food-waste or cooking with seasonal produce.

There are plans to set up a “coffee library” with relevant reading to browse through and to re-establish a community bakery, selling bread made with local flour.

“We know the damage that our modern, western consumer lifestyle is doing,” she says. “We know it is unsustainable.” But, she claims, we are so disconnected from our food systems that we don’t know quite what to do about it. The hub project is an attempt to help reconnect people through growing, talking and thinking about how food gets from the land or sea to our plates.

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The group has approached the council and requested an “assets transfer” of a piece of unused land in the village to establish a community garden and is working with another group to have food growing in the local playpark.

“We want to work with youngsters and older people – to share skills and knowledge about food,” she says.

“We want to demonstrate that a lot of food can be grown in a small area and also that it is not difficult to grow and make healthy nutritious food and feed your community.”

Keeping food local is a key part of the solution, she argues. “Having a local food system means more people will be closely involved in the food that is produced and so more people will be informed of healthier food choices.”

Pauline Gallacher, chair of the Neilston Development Trust:

Laura Curtis-Moss, Young Leaders Development Programme, Climate 2050 Group

"I THINK what I find is interesting about the food agenda is it brings so many things together,” says Gallacher, who helps run the Bank, a community owned project and café in Neilston, East Renfrewshire.

“I proposed to our board that food should become a central stand of our work because it coalesced so many strands. The Scottish Government needs to do the big stuff but at our end we can do the cultural work, the behaviour change, we can help make food fun for people.”

She lists the problems – the frustration of knowing what fantastic food Scotland produces but seeing the supermarket shelves stacked with junk food, and the marketing driving our obesity crisis is a bugbear.

She also finds it impossible to accept that in this relatively wealthy land of plenty there are still people reliant on food banks, or even skipping meals.

But really, she insists, the project she runs is about showing that food is fun. Volunteers come from different backgrounds – one makes her own sourdough bread, another brings eggs to sell, the local veg from the community garden is used in the cafe.

She wants to ensure ordinary Scots are able to access the wonderful ingredients that we produce. 

“Scotland sends food to the four corners of the earth,” she says. “We are living in a country that can produce good food. But we need to make sure good food is affordable and available. It’s not a complicated matter.”

Osbert Lancaster, manager at community development trust Sustaining Dunbar:

‘WE did some research in 2012 with about 1500 people in Dunbar and East Linton,” says Lancaster. “It showed that there was really strong desire for local food from local ethical producers working in a sustainable way, but that was affordable. That’s where we started from.” The problem is, he says, that sort of food is difficult to access. While artisan goodies might be on offer, it’s the everyday, affordable fare that he wants to see people able to get their hands on.

The trust has set up Belhaven community garden and – not wholly successfully – campaigned for more allotments. He is frustrated by the decision to build housing on rich agricultural land, which can now never be used for food production.

It also helped set up Dunbar community bakery.

But he’s acutely aware of the organisation’s limitations. “When change does happen it does so because of the drive and the passion of volunteers and community groups,” he says. “But they are working against the tide.

“We would like to see the drive for that change come from policy. We want to see access to good food happening because of the system rather than in spite of it.

“The Scottish Government has done a lot of great work encouraging farmers to produce high quality, natural food but all too often that is going to international markets and we’d like to see more available locally as well.”