Scottish Human Rights Commission: Right to food should be enshrined in Scots law

Judith Robertson

The right to food should be enshrined in law in Scotland to protect people from rising food insecurity and the impacts of Brexit, according to a new report by the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC).

The report, submitted to the Scottish government, also calls on public authorities to address inequalities in people’s access to adequate food.

It explains how international human rights law defines the right to food as well as government obligations to ensure that food is accessible, adequate and available to everyone.

The report echoes recommendations 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 SHRC 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.”

Judith Robertson, chair of the commission, 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 to show 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.”

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