FOOD charities want the Scottish Government’s new Good Food Nation Plan to go further in addressing the many challenges the country faces.

The Scottish Food Coalition – an alliance of 50 civil society organisations – claims the new plan has failed to tackle poor pay and working conditions in the food and drink sector, as well as the high cost of healthy diets and persistent food insecurity.

Biodiversity loss and the climate impact on food production and consumption have also not been properly addressed, according to the coalition.

Mads Fischer-Møller, food policy adviser at WWF Scotland, said Scottish diets were among the unhealthiest in Europe with the highest climate and nature footprint among the four UK nations.

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“For this food plan to succeed, we need to see more tangible and ambitious new initiatives that can inspire change, alongside clear targets on how we reduce the environmental footprint of Scottish food and how it’s produced while ensuring that everyone has access to a healthy, affordable and sustainable diet,” he said.

Caroline Robinson, director of the Worker Support Centre which assists seasonal workers in the agriculture industry, added: “While seasonal agricultural work has been recognised by the UK Government as one of the most high-risk jobs there is, this plan is so far silent on the steps Scotland will take to ensure fair work standards for those who pick our fruit and vegetables.”

The plan’s approach to animal welfare has also been criticised.

Kirsty Jenkins, policy officer with OneKind, said: “Animal welfare issues – which by law must be addressed by the plan – have no set targets or indicators to measure progress, nor even any detail to indicate a direction of travel.”

Peter Stevenson, chief policy adviser at Compassion In World Farming, said the charity was disappointed at the plan’s “very unambitious” proposals on animal welfare.

“The plan must be strengthened to rapidly phase out the keeping of hens and gamebirds in cages, the confinement of sows in farrowing crates, zero-grazing of dairy cows and the rearing of fast-growing broilers in overcrowded conditions,” he said. “Crucially, the plan must place a moratorium on any expansion of Scotland’s inhumane salmon farming industry.”

The National: Sabine Goodwin Independent Food Aid Network.

Sabine Goodwin (above), director of the Independent Food Aid Network, said that while the charity welcomed the inclusion of commitments to reduce food insecurity, the plan was “disappointing”.

“Ensuring that people have enough income to afford food is a vital part of building a fairer food system in Scotland,” she said.

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“However, the plan in its current form is disappointing in terms of the level of evidence and detail required to meet the real and rising challenge of food insecurity in Scotland.

“It’s vital that the final plan goes further than reiterating existing commitments but fully demonstrates the progress made to tackle food insecurity including successful policies to lift people out of poverty such as the Scottish Child Payment.

“Any plan that is serious about reducing food insecurity must also outline detailed targets to ensure that meaningful progress is made over the next five years.”

Pete Ritchie, director of Nourish Scotland, said the Scottish Government’s vision for Scotland’s food system was inspiring but the plan did not yet provide a roadmap for delivering on its Good Food Nation ambition.

The Good Food Nation Act was unanimously passed 18 months ago by the Scottish Parliament and requires the Government to publish a food plan every five years. The plan must set out a direction of travel for food policy, address food system issues in a coherent way, and propose targets to measure progress.

The draft plan is now subject to statutory public consultation until April 22. It will then be laid before Parliament for further scrutiny.

Professor Mary Brennan, chair of the Scottish Food Coalition, said: “As the Scottish Government says, ‘food is everyone’s business’.

“Let’s now work together on the first National Good Food Nation Plan for Scotland and ensure it delivers on the right to food and a food system which truly works for people and planet.”

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Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon (above) said: “We welcome all input on our Good Food Nation plan consultation, which aims to support a thriving food and drink sector and ensure everyone has access to healthy, nutritious food.

“This feedback will help us shape the direction of the plan and I encourage anyone with an interest to have their say before the consultation closes on April 22.”