Showcasing the best of the islands at Scotland House, London
Fiona Richmond, Head of Regional Food, Scotland Food & Drink.
It was an honour to attend a remarkable international event at Scotland House in London this week that shone a spotlight on Scotland's innovative and ambitious approach to supporting its island and rural communities.
With over 50 distinguished guests in attendance, including international diplomats, academics, and government officials, the event was a resounding success, with informative and lively discussions on key issues that affect our island communities and the food and drink businesses that are the bedrock of many of their economies.
At the heart of the event was a critical message for our food and drink sector: Scotland's islands are not just idyllic, remote outposts, but they are also hotbeds of innovative and sustainable businesses.
The policies outlined in the Scottish Government’s "National Islands Plan Implementation Route Map 2023" represent a strategic approach that involves island communities and acknowledges the unique challenges and opportunities these regions face.
With 93 Scottish islands boasting a collective population of 10,000, it's vital to acknowledge the essential role played by food and drink production in these communities. To highlight that importance and the variety of our island produce, Scotland Food & Drink organised a showcase of the islands during the evening reception.
Showcasing island food and drink businesses
Representatives from various Regional Food Groups (RFGs), including Orkney Food and Drink, Eat Drink Hebrides, and Bute Kitchen, were present, offering tastings of their exquisite produce and sharing the stories of their islands.
The showcase featured a diverse range of island produce; from the Orkney Islands, where Edgar Balfour, leader of the Orkney RFG, showcased products ranging from Westray Oatcakes to Orkney cheese and butter to Barony Mill beremealBannocks and Swannay Brewery's beer.
Julie Sloan, leader of Eat Drink Hebrides RFG, showcased Machair Water, The Hebridean Baker's new book, and Trout Hebrides.
Bute Kitchen, with members Cathleen Crichton Stuart from Bute Smokehouse and Elizabeth MacKirdy from Braw Liquor Club and Bute Coffee, brought a taste of the Isle of Bute.
Products from Taste of Arran and Shetland's The Chocolate Box, were also provided for tastings, further expanding the rich diversity of Scotland's island products.
The tasting session not only entertained the guests at Scotland House, but also provided a meaningful way to connect with the island producers, hear their stories, and understand the unique challenges and opportunities they face.
The culinary experience was masterfully crafted by Gregg Boyd from Auld Hag, a London-based Scot with a deep passion for Scottish cuisine. The menu featured a range of island-inspired canapés that included North Uist Scallops, Isle of Skye Black Pudding and Angus Beef Tartlet, Orkney Crab PateTattie & Isle of Mull Croquettes and Shetland Lamb. The event concluded on a sweet note with mini Shetland sheep chocolates from The Chocolate Box and Orkney Fudge
Why are the islands so important for our sector?
The answer was evident in the participation of the RFGs and the array of island produce on display. Food and drink are vital components of island life, integral to the local communities and economies. The island producers showcased during the event epitomise resilience, innovation, and sustainability. They are not just food and drink producers; they are champions of their islands, embodying the spirit of their unique communities.
Creating international opportunities
The food and drink tasting session also had a broader impact. It served as a powerful catalyst for conversations among our international guests, who represented countries from Australia and New Zealand to Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden, Estonia, and Vietnam. These conversations provided a unique opportunity to showcase Scotland's islands, sharing their special products and the stories behind them, while also exchanging ideas with other destinations facing similar challenges and opportunities.
Our island food and drink producers are among the most sustainable and internationally successful businesses, and through collaboration with bodies like Scotland House on events like these, we can continue to build on that success.
This event was not just about celebrating Scotland's islands. It was about emphasising the importance of supporting these communities and recognising the invaluable contributions they make to culture, the economy, and our shared vision of a sustainable and innovative future for food and drink businesses.
The success of this event is a testament to the enduring spirit of collaboration and innovation that defines Scotland's food and drink industry and our island communities.