WE mourned a quiet and substantial Scot earlier this week. It’s fair to say there was an outpouring of tributes for the late Andrew Fairlie – the two-Michelin-starred superchef at the Gleneagles Hotel, and my former fellow board member on Yes Scotland.

Andrew was a poignant package. A working-class boy who detected tarragon in the sauce of the hotel restaurant where he was skivvying. This sent him on a spectacular journey though the great kitchens of the world, particularly in London and Paris. In a world where taste – of all kinds – is notoriously subjective, and where the power relations between people can often be the most oppressive and instrumental, Andrew had quite the anchor: his memories of dinner-table debates about the future of Scotland, with his father, the notable SNP grandee Jim Fairlie.

It was striking to see, in the various tributes this week, how much Andrew tried to fuse his democratic background with his culinary practice. No-one had ever been fired from his kitchens, because – as Andrew put it – the whole team decided who was next to be employed, on criteria of character and values as much as outright skills.

It also wrung the heart to read of his great interest in Eastern, and particularly Buddhist, approaches to food and culture. “Their philosophy appeals to my sense of calm,”

he quipped a few years ago. What fusions would that interest have created, if time and mortality had granted it?

We want a Scotland where aspiration and talent, and the graft and diligence behind it, are celebrated, developed and encouraged. But we also want those stars to be citizens – aware of their privileges and accumulated capital, reaching helping hands downwards and outwards.

“Private affluence and public squalor”, in JK Galbraith’s immortal phrase, is still the primary pathology of the age.

So one has to concede that the collective praise for a lad-o’-pairts masterchef at Gleneagles, in a Scottish era of food banks, increasing obesity and nutritional ill-health, must at some point hit its limits. Andrew himself,

I discovered this week, didn’t ignore the contradiction. Mike Small – known here as the co-founder of Bella Caledonia, but who is also a powerful anti-corporate food activist – reminded me that Andrew publicly supported his campaign for a “sugar tax” in Scotland.

And when Mike was promoting his Fife Diet – a scheme which invited people to consume only local produce for a year, as a critique of the multinational food system – he tells me that Andrew was “brilliant and supportive … He came to various events, often not to speak, but just to observe or lend quiet moral support. I used to quote his menu which just consisted of ‘Perthshire Raspberries’.”

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It was also noted this week that Andrew didn’t go down the mega-brand route of many of his chef contemporaries – the personally branded kitchen implements, the processed-food lines in supermarkets, the shouty reality TV shows – meaning not as much contribution to landfill as there could have been.

The National: Head grower Jo Campbell at work in Andrew Fairlie's 'secret garden'Head grower Jo Campbell at work in Andrew Fairlie's 'secret garden'

Andrew’s primary indulgence seemed to be a “secret garden”. This was a walled Victorian space where he cultivated produce, local and globally sourced, that went only into his Gleneagles operation.

We might well wish to generate a legacy for Andrew Fairlie (beyond the fact that the Gleneagles restaurant will still bear his name). In fact, we currently have the ideal opportunity to do so. On March 29, we come to the end of something called the Good Food Nation consultation. This is the culmination of what has been described as a decade of activism, research, experiment and policy proposals. It has been aiming towards the same kind of bold targets that Scotland has set itself on renewable energy – except applied to our food cultures and systems.

A Good Food Nation Bill was proposed in the SNP government’s 2016 manifesto – and until late last year, looked like one of those rare proposals that was going to receive near unanimous opposition support.

A Food Commission had brought together many players, and established a consensus on what such a legislative bill would achieve. These would be strong targets for the nation’s food policy, driven by a focus on “health and wellbeing, environmental sustainability, local economic prosperity, resilient communities and fairness in the food chain”.

And then, it seems to have all gone a bit Fergus Ewing (the minister who leads on the policy). The broad ambitions of the bill were reduced to “targeted” rather than “framework” legislation. Ambitions that Scotland could establish a benchmark “human right to food” were diffused into a welter of existing rights.

Dig into the current consultation, and you can get a flavour of the backroom struggles, and perhaps also some rigorous commercial lobbying. The Food Commission (now rather mysteriously disbanded) had suggested that private companies be subject to “a requirement to set out a statement on food policy”.

“We have considered this proposal carefully”, says Ewing’s document, “and we are concerned that it would place significant additional costs on businesses operating in Scotland and unfairly disadvantage them compared to their competitors”.

Yet I would recommend to you the transcript of the Scottish Parliament Food and Drink debate on September 13 last year, when the opposition parties fairly rounded on the government’s backsliding on an integrated bill.

At one level, it’s Holyrood at its policy best. Party politics is to some degree suspended, as representatives can see an ideal opportunity for their constituents’ interest (as food producers and consumers) to be properly served, via reforms that Holyrood has some tangible powers to execute.

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AT another level, and with evident pride, each MSP’s intervention builds up a map of irrepressible local enterprise and inventiveness, which an entrepreneur like Andrew Fairlie would (and did) celebrate. The various names are enough: Lomond Fine Foods, Cream o’ Galloway, Annandale Distillery, Loch Ryan Oysters, Abhainn Dearg Whisky, Kallin Shellfish, Stag Bakeries, MacDuff Shellfish, Barratlantic, the Hebridean Mustard Company, Coul Brewing Company, Damn Delicious Bakery, Mossie’s Pork, Start-Up Drinks Lab, Nutcrafter Creamery …

Yet the same MSPs will point out the same contradiction. We can praise the vitality of Scottish food culture and production. We can flag up the tens of billions of yearly trade and exports that it represents. We can warn how this is threatened by Scotland being subsumed into Brexit. But while hundreds of thousands struggle to feed their families, when the free school meals end for the summer holidays, how can such praise be unalloyed?

In an essay about what a sustainable Scottish food system would look like, Small quotes brilliantly from the American environmentalist Wendell Berry: “The ideal industrial food consumer would be strapped to a table with a tube running from the food factory directly into his or her stomach.

“Perhaps I exaggerate, but not by much. The industrial eater is, in fact, one who does not know that eating is an agricultural act, who no longer knows or imagines the connections between eating and the land, and who is therefore necessarily passive and uncritical – in short, a victim.”

Continues Berry: “When food, in the minds of eaters, is no longer associated with farming and with the land, then the eaters are suffering a kind of cultural amnesia that is misleading and dangerous.”

By mapping out the many assets, and the pressing needs, of Scotland’s food system, and making the plan as equally ambitious an offer to the future (and the world) as our sustainable energy targets, we would reverse this “cultural amnesia”.

But I suggest that’s something the late Andrew Fairlie – quiet patriot and food genius – would have loved to be alive to see (and perhaps oversee). Let’s try to build it.

To contribute to the Scottish Government’s consultation on Good Food Nation, visit www.gov.scot