Moves to make food security a human right in Scotland

Third Force News, by Robert Armour

Food should be a human right in Scotland, a new report has said.

A move to enshrine the right in law would help alleviate health inequality, claimed the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

International legislation makes access to food a right but few countries have the same laws.

With rising numbers needing emergency food aid in Scotland food insecurity is “unacceptably high”, the commission’s report said, with more than 480,500 food parcels being handed out by food banks between April 2017 and September 2018.

Commission chairwoman Judith Robertson said: “International law is clear that governments have obligations to take action to ensure people’s right to food is realised.

“The Scottish Human Rights Commission is calling on the government to take action to incorporate the right to food into Scotland’s laws as part of its work to make Scotland a good food nation.

“We want to see the Scottish government showing human rights leadership in a practical way.”

The commission worked with people affected by food poverty to develop its recommendations. Emily lives with her son Callum (names have been changed) in a rural area and described how she sometimes relies on food parcels from a parenting organisation.

“I get support from a local group where single parents can come and spend time together as well as learning to prepare and cook food.

“My universal credit was delayed and I had 85 pence left in my bank account. I had run out of nappies and wipes and was worried I would have no money for milk or food for my son if it did not come through. I had a food parcel delivered recently and I think I’ll need another this week.

“To reach a low cost supermarket is a three mile walk making it a six mile round trip on foot with my baby in a buggy. To get the bus would cost me five pounds which would take a significant chunk out of my weekly food budget.”

Emily says there is a lack of information and support from public services:

“I didn’t know I had to re-subscribe to Healthy Start Vouchers after my baby was born. It would have meant that I could buy milk and fresh and frozen fruit. It wasns’t much per week but it would have helped.”

The consultation document states that the option of exploring a right to food which is directly enforceable under Scots law “has not been ruled out”. But it suggests any proposals sit within wider human rights responsibilities.

The Scottish government said a national taskforce was being established to take forward the group’s recommendations.

A spokesman added: “We have also increased our Fair Food Fund to £3.5m this year to continue supporting organisations that help to tackle the causes of food insecurity.”