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Highland MSP accuses Scottish Government of not caring about food poverty

By Gordon Calder

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A NORTH MSP has accused the SNP and the Greens of not caring about food poverty and said it is "deeply disappointing" legislation on the issue has been delayed.

Rhoda Grant, the Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, was dismayed her Right to Food Bill was "kicked into the long grass" by the Scottish Parliament's Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee. Three members and the convener – Green and SNP representatives – did not give their backing to the bill. They want another consultation to be undertaken. Three other members, from Labour and the Conservatives, supported her.

Labour's Rhoda Grant MSP is dismayed her Right to Food Bill has been delayed. .Picture Gary Anthony.
Labour's Rhoda Grant MSP is dismayed her Right to Food Bill has been delayed. .Picture Gary Anthony.

The bill was originally launched by former Labour MSP Elaine Smith who represented Central Scotland.

The Scottish Co-op Party, which is supporting the bill, has voiced its disappointment there will now have to be a second consultation carried out by Mrs Grant after one was previously done by Ms Smith.

But Mrs Grant has vowed to fight on despite the setback and carry out further consultation with outside organisations although she believes the first was more than adequate.

After the meeting, Mrs Grant said: "It is deeply disappointing that the SNP and Greens have sought to delay the Right to Food Bill at committee. The pandemic has made the Right to Food Bill even more urgent.

"To delay on this vital matter sends a message to the public that this government is not interested in tackling food poverty.

"There is no time for dither and delay. The SNP and Greens need to drop their partisan opposition to this vital bill and put the needs of the people of Scotland above petty politics."

She added: "Access to food is a human right but it is being denied to too many people in our country. The pandemic has only exacerbated this and increased the need for action to be taken to address the problems in our food sector."

If Mrs Grant gets her bill passed, it would enshrine the human right to food into Scots’ law and place responsibility for realising it on the Scottish Government, including the ability to hold them to account.

Over the summer Mrs Grant met community groups, charities and organisations, which have an interest in the right to food, to get a better idea from specialists about the key issues.

"The Scottish Government has suggested that a wider Human Rights Bill could include the right to food but have not confirmed whether they would have an independent body ensuring the right under this act would be met," she said.

"I want to move this forward now and not have it dragged out further but I won’t be deterred and will continue the fight."

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