Planned “good food nation” legislation should include the right to food, the Scottish Human Rights Commission has said.
It argues such a move would help protect against food insecurity and tackle health inequalities.
In a report submitted to the Scottish Government’s public consultation on proposals to make Scotland a good food nation, the commission highlighted that the right to food is enshrined in international human rights law.
The commission said this right – which involves food being accessible, adequate and available for everyone – is not being realised across Scotland.
Food insecurity is “unacceptably high”, the report said, with more than 480,500 food parcels being handed out by food banks between April 2017 and September 2018.
It continues: “Health inequalities are persistent with many people, including children, unable to afford or access a healthy and nutritious diet.”
The commission spoke to people experiencing food poverty in Scotland before making its submission, including a mother who lives with her one-year-old son in a rural area.
She said: “My universal credit was delayed and I had 85p 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 £5, which would take a significant chunk out of my weekly food budget.”
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.
“Bringing this kind of law into force would respond directly to recommendations from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”
The consultation document states the option of exploring a right to food which is directly enforceable under Scots law “has not been ruled out”, but suggests any proposals sit within wider human rights responsibilities.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring Scotland protects, respects and realises internationally recognised human rights – which is why the First Minister established the Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership.
“A national taskforce is being established to take forward the group’s recommendations.
“We have also increased our Fair Food Fund to £3.5 million this year to continue supporting organisations that help to tackle the causes of food insecurity.”