23 April 2015

S4M-12801 DG Food and Drink

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-12801, in the name of Joan McAlpine, on DG food and drink. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament understands the importance of food and drink to the Scottish economy; believes that the Year of Food and Drink 2015 is a chance to spotlight, celebrate and promote Scotland’s natural produce; considers that food and drink are an important part of Scottish cultural identity and heritage and are key strengths in promoting Scotland as a holiday destination; recognises as an example of best practice the collaborative activities between food businesses, organisations and the public sector across Dumfries and Galloway to raise awareness of the economic importance of food and drink production in the region; congratulates DG Food and Drink and Dumfries and Galloway Council on developing and launching Scotland’s Artisan Food Trail, a new tourism trail to encourage food tourism during the Year of Food and Drink and beyond; congratulates the food and drink industry in Dumfries and Galloway for embracing the opportunities presented by the Year of Food and Drink, and looks forward to seeing Dumfries and Galloway increasingly recognised across Scotland and beyond as a food tourism destination.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I am sure that Graeme Dey will be answerable at a later stage for referring to the cabinet secretary’s profile.

I join other members in congratulating Joan McAlpine on extolling the virtues of Dumfries and Galloway and the food that is produced there and on giving those of us from elsewhere in Scotland the opportunity to talk about the important cultural Scottish identity and heritage that come from food and drink across Scotland.

Scottish food and drink has even joined the current election campaign. I saw in one of today’s papers that apparently someone in the south-west of England was complaining that the Scots were taking over the full English breakfast down in Devon, where haggis has become part of the meal. I think that that is great because haggis is wonderful food—and I suppose that even in south-west England it is probably optional.

There are bigger success stories in our food and drink industry. Reports have come out in the past 24 hours that, for the first time, the value of our farmed salmon exports has crossed £500 million mark. I think that there will be very few members of this Parliament who have not eaten salmon products that come from processing facilities in my constituency.

There are small successes as well. The Barra snail is now the connoisseur’s snail of choice in French restaurants, not only in France but in Scotland. The addition of virgin rapeseed oil is improving the quality of cooking and salads throughout Scotland and internationally—that started in the north-east of Scotland. We now have garlic farms in the cabinet secretary’s constituency.

Food is an important part of tourism, and tourism is a very important industry for us. Food will bring people to Scotland and, of course, if we do not get it right, it will make sure that they do not come back. When we talk about food, we are not necessarily talking about Michelin-starred outlets, although those are excellent and greater in number than they were in decades past; we are perhaps talking about simple things such as the quality of food in local fish and chip shops. I am delighted that, when I go to my local outlet for fish and chips, I generally have the choice of six or eight different kinds of fish, all locally sourced and all absolutely excellent. I have previously referred to the fact that Dumfries and Galloway was where I very first had yoghurt, in the 1960s. I continue to have fond memories of that.

The point about the industry is that two thirds of our food and drink businesses reckon that they are going to increase their staff over the next four years. A significant number of areas are entering the sustainable food cities scheme. We expect that, by 2016, more than 50 areas across the United Kingdom will have entered that scheme.

One thing that we dealt with at First Minister’s questions was food banks, and that raises the issue of food being available to people with limited resources. It also raises the issue of food and diet. The obesity problems we have now are because of the preparation of much of our good-quality food. If we have good-quality food, we can prepare it better and deliver it to address that agenda as well.

I will close by mentioning one dish that is available in my constituency—a modest enough dish that costs about £1. It is Downies of Whitehills Cullen skink Scotch pie: the most wonderful Scotch pie in the world. Good food can be very affordable indeed, and I hope that Downies continues to produce that Scotch pie to entertain my palate and digestive system and those of people throughout Scotland.


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