Enabling constructive conversation between government and business.

Policy Work in Action

Please see below communications we have had with officials to share the industry’s opinions, updates and recommendations, as well as our commentary on current policy discussions.

Public Statement from Scotland Food & Drink

On 17 May 2024, Scotland Food & Drink attended a speech in Glasgow by First Minister John Swinney and Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes. Iain Baxter, CEO of Scotland Food & Drink, said: “The First Minister and Deputy First Minister this morning laid out their vision for Scotland's economic future and the key principles that will underpin it. We are pleased to see their renewed commitment to economic growth and the vital role our food and drink businesses will play. As Scotland’s largest manufacturing sector, it plays a critical role in many rural and coastal communities.

“Ms Forbes articulated her vision for a prosperous economy, emphasising the need for businesses to collaborate with the Scottish Government on a journey of innovation, inward investment, and sustainable use of our natural resources. We welcome this vision and the Deputy First Minister’s recognition of Scotland’s food and drink as the best produce in the world, highlighting the significant potential we have yet to fully unlock.

“The First Minister elaborated on the government’s strategic approach, which is underpinned by policies aimed at eradicating child poverty while fostering a strong, innovative, and dynamic economy. He stressed that there is no conflict between economic growth and eradicating child poverty. We agree that these goals are interlinked and can be mutually reinforcing.

“The guiding principles shared today reflect a commitment to partnership between businesses, communities, and wider stakeholders. The First Minister’s call for concrete actions aligns with our delivery plans, ensuring tangible progress throughout the food and drink supply chain. The emphasis on building a resilient economy through strong supply chains aligns with the objectives set out in our industry strategy: 'Sustaining Scotland. Supplying the World.'

“Scotland Food & Drink is proud to support the Scottish Government's vision of a wellbeing economy. We firmly believe that economic growth is essential to generate additional value, enabling investment in public services, infrastructure, and innovation – all crucial for societal wellbeing. Growth creates employment opportunities, reduces poverty, and enhances environmental sustainability through cleaner technologies and practices.

“We value our ongoing partnership with the Scottish Government, which ensures that government policies reflect the practical realities of running a food and drink business. This collaboration is vital in enabling more businesses along the supply chain to reach their potential, selling into our key markets in Scotland, the UK, and globally.

“We look forward to continuing our productive relationship with the Scottish Government, with a can-do attitude and a commitment to collectively striving for a thriving, inclusive, and sustainable economy for Scotland.

“We can achieve those goals by working together and realising the value across the food and drink landscape, while meeting our steadfast commitment to Net Zero by 2045 and aligning our social, economic, and environmental efforts to maximise benefits for the whole of Scotland.”

Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme

Although now delayed until the UK scheme launches, Scotland’s DRS (Deposit Return Scheme) has been a major policy area for a considerable period. Applying deposits to drinks affects all drinks producers in Scotland, as well as the drinks supply chain. We worked hard to establish constructive dialogue with both industry and government, regularly surveying businesses to assess their readiness.  

Our principal objective is a fair and workable scheme, and we fully respect the democratic process that led to Scotland going ahead of the rest of the UK. One of the challenges that came with that decision was the risk of cross border fraud, which increased complexity and costs. It was also subject to the UK Internal Market Act, a relatively recent piece of legislation that aims to avoid market distortion within the UK. Operating a DRS in one part of the UK and not others requires an exemption to the act.  

The UK Government offered a partial exemption, with a requirement that glass be removed from Scotland’s scheme alongside other requirements to ensure interoperability between other UK schemes as they launched. The decision came when many of Scotland's scheme’s structures were in place and increased uncertainty about how interoperability would be achieved. This led the Scottish Government to delay the scheme. We supported this decision during a meeting chaired by the First Minister, Humza Yousaf, on the back of industry engagement which was clear in its findings – a UK wide scheme is preferred, notwithstanding the effort, time and costs that went into trying to make a standalone scheme work for Scotland. 

We have led a review into the Scottish Government’s Food Processing, Marketing and Cooperation (FPMC) scheme, a fund that has existed for many years and which was paused in 2023. 

We have been engaging businesses and industry experts, including via a survey and interviews, to develop recommendations that will help ensure a future scheme can best meet the needs of businesses, in line with social and environmental objectives.  

We hope to continue working with Scottish Government to help develop the new scheme. 

We are involved in the New Deal for Business, announced by the First Minister, which is an attempt to ensure the voice of business is heard by government as it develops policies and regulations that will impact on business. 

As part of our involvement, we are leading a sub-group looking at how businesses can be more involved at the early stages of regulatory development. We are also members of the Regulatory Task Force, co-chaired by Richard Lochhead, Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade. 

Our involvement in this area is intended to help achieve the core aims for our policy work – to foster collaboration and constructive discussions between decision makers and those affected by the decisions being made. 

Our role

It is vital that we build a policy and regulatory environment that supports responsible growth across our industry. It is also crucial to use policy and regulation effectively to underpin Scotland's global reputation for animal welfare, food safety, traceability, sustainability, and quality. We work alongside the Scottish and UK Governments on relevant regulatory and policy areas. We ensure policy development is grounded in the reality of running a food and drink business. Our role is to understand the needs and concerns of all industry businesses and relay these to government, whilst understanding the needs and concerns of government and relaying these to industry.

Our Policy Work

We aim to be honest and upfront in our dealings with both, recognising that change is necessary to achieve success and that by working together we can increase the pace and scale of change to deliver more for Scotland.

Our policy work is dedicated to helping food and drink businesses in Scotland, with two key aims. Firstly, to understand what businesses across the industry need to achieve responsible growth. Secondly, to work constructively with decision makers across the food and drink landscape, including UK and Scottish Governments, to meet those needs in a way that fits Scotland’s social, economic, and environmental objectives.

Recent policy work has focussed on areas including the Circular Economy, Deposit Return Scheme, products that are high in fat, salt, and sugar (HFSS), Highly Protected Marine Areas and Migration. We are engaging with teams across different Scottish Government directorates, UK Government and the Scotland Office to explore how we can work together to support responsible growth more broadly. This includes issues such as decarbonising energy and transport, securing investment, workforce and labour, international trade (from a regulatory perspective) and more. 

Key Issues Updates

The food and drink policy landscape in Scotland continues to be dynamic, with various activities underway that are likely to impact businesses across the country.

Active policy areas include trade, health, immigration, recruitment, skills, wages, procurement, local food, labelling, food security and infrastructure.

We share regular Key Issues updates - sign up to receive these and read our latest update.

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Read our latest update here


Get in touch

Members will be informed about relevant policy work directly by Joe Hind, our Policy Manager. If you are not a member but have any questions, please contact Joe.

Members and non-members can also sign up to our Key Issues Update, where key policy updates are shared.

Summary of Scottish Government’s Programme for Government (PfG) 2023-24

The Scottish Government’s latest PfG was published on 5th September 2023 and included a foreword from the First Minister (FM) Humza Yousaf which reiterated that the Scottish Government is focussed on three missions:

  • Equality: Tackling poverty and protecting people from harm.
  • Opportunity: Building a fair, green and growing economy.
  • Community: Delivering efficient and effective public services.

Read our summary on the PfG, including key information that is relevant to food and drink businesses.

Find out more

Collaboration is key

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