Scotland’s Good Food Nation Bill Provides Framework for a Healthy, Sustainable Food System

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
good food nation

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Good Food Nation

Overview: Scotland’s Good Food Nation Bill, which will be passed this year, provides a legislative framework for creating a healthier, more sustainable food system. 

Location: Scotland

Population: 5.5 million

Food policy category: Sustainability, nutrition

Program goals: To transform Scotland into a Good Food Nation, where “people from every walk of

life, will take pride and pleasure in the food served day by day in Scotland” by 2025.

How it works: In 2014 the Scottish government created a vision of becoming a “good food nation” by 2025. A good food nation is defined as a country where: 

  • Residents know what good food is and how to find it.
  • People are committed to serving and selling good food. 
  • Everyone has access to an adequate amount of healthy, nutritious food.
  • There is a reduction in diet-related diseases and the environmental consequences of food consumption.  
  • Food producers work towards providing food that is increasingly healthy and sustainable. 

The Good Food Nation Bill requires Scottish ministers to produce a national good food nation plan that outlines the main outcomes to be achieved, the indicators that will measure progress in achieving these outcomes, and the policies that will be developed to support the desired outcomes. The bill will provide a coherent legislative framework that connects policies from all sectors to ensure a healthy, sustainable food system. 

Progress to date: The policy document, Becoming a Good Food Nation, was first published in 2014 and set a vision for Scotland to become a “Good Food Nation” by 2025. Since 2018, Scotland’s Programme for Government, a yearly document setting out government actions and legislative programming for the year to come, has included commitments related to achieving this vision. 

The Programme for Government 2018 to 2019 committed to gathering feedback on Good Food Nation legislation proposals. Consultation on the proposals was open from December 2018 through April 18, 2019, and analysis of the feedback was published on September 11, 2019.  

The 2019 to 2020 Programme discussed a commitment to introduce a Good Food Nation Bill during the parliamentary term, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not introduced until October 2021

The bill is currently in Stage 3: “Final Changes and Vote.” The final bill will be published when stage 3 has been completed and is expected to pass later this year. 

Why it is important: The Scottish government has stated that an increasing number of Scots have one or more complex illnesses, such as cancer or diabetes, that prevent them from working. The nonprofit Nourish Scotland claims that there are many Scots who rely on food banks and that, currently, a healthy diet is not affordable for everyone. Additionally, the Scottish Food Coalition says that current farming and fishing practices are unsustainable and animal welfare is a concern. 

By establishing more sustainable food practices, the comprehensive legislative action included in the Good Food Nation Bill will benefit the country’s residents by improving their overall health and longevity, as well as the environment. 

Program/Policy initiated: The bill builds off Scotland’s National Food and Drink Policy, which was published in 2014. The final bill will pass later in 2022. 

Point of contact: 
Scottish Parliament

Scottish Food Coalition

Similar practices: Other countries with national food policies include New Zealand, Brazil, and Canada

Evaluation: The Good Food Nation Programme of Measures, first published in 2018 and updated in March 2022, identifies the progress that has been made towards becoming a good food nation in terms of health, social justice, knowledge, environmental sustainability, and prosperity. Examples of successes include:

  • From 2018 to 2021, the government invested £200,000 to help small- and medium-sized food establishments reformulate recipes for menu items in order to reduce portion sizes and/or salt, sugar, or fat content. An additional £105,000 is being invested to continue this project through 2022. 
  • £400,000 in funding was given to the Food for Thought Fund in 2019-2020 to support school-based food education projects. 

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