The right to food should be enshrined in Scots law to protect people from rising food insecurity, according to a new report submitted to the Scottish government.
The Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) report highlights that the right to food is not being realised for everyone in Scotland, with household food insecurity “unacceptably high”.
The report tells Emily’s story as an example. Emily lives with her son Callum* in a rural area and sometimes relies on food parcels from a parenting organisation to get by: “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.
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.
Emily, Universal Credit Claimant
“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.”
Children are experiencing food insecurity too, with parents and carers “too often relying on emergency food banks” and going hungry during school holidays, the Commission claims, with “none of Scotland’s dietary goals” being met.
The Scottish Parliament. Credit: Geograph/Graham Hogg
The report was compiled for the Scottish government’s consultation on making Scotland a “good food nation”. It follows the Independent Working Group on Food Poverty’s 2016 recommendation to explore “how the right to food can be explored within Scottish law.”
Our right to food is protected by a number of international standards, including Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. States are required to “progressively” realise the rights enshrined in the ICESCR.
The government said it was “fully committed” to protecting these internationally-recognised human rights.
The report also calls on public authorities to address “stark” inequalities in people’s health and their access to adequate food, and sets out the challenges to the supply, affordability and accessibility of food for people across Scotland.
Making The Right To Food ‘More Meaningful’
Image Credit: Flickr/MasterMaq
These challenges, according to the SHRC, are increasing because of “rising economic insecurity, the continued impact of austerity-driven reductions in social security, climate change, and the way that food is produced, distributed and marketed.”
More than 480,500 food parcels were handed out by food banks in Scotland between April 2017 and September 2018.
The Commission’s Chair, 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. Bringing this kind of law into force would respond directly to recommendations from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
We have the opportunity in Scotland to take a rights based approach to the food system as a whole, and to make people’s right to food more meaningful in practice by putting it into law. There is a real urgency to take these progressive steps now.
Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission
The report echoes recommendations to the UK from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to put in place a national framework law to protect and realise the right to food.
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 set up 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.”