Claire Baker MSP

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Claire Baker MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
Claire Baker

The cabinet secretary has rightly mentioned the emphasis on children’s food in the document, but the focus is very much on the public sector. Does he have anything in particular to say about the restaurant and café sector, where there are real issues about the range and type of children’s food and portion sizes on offer?



Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I am delighted to open the debate for Labour. This is an exciting time for the food and drink sector and, as the recent Bank of Scotland report on the sector demonstrated, we are seeing not only strong export figures in key markets but a very positive approach across the whole sector, with companies planning for the future. That this success has happened at a time when there has been real economic pressure in other areas is a credit to all involved.

As we look forward to 2015, the year of food and drink, I give credit to the Government for working positively with the sector and promoting its importance in a modern economy. Success has come through increased partnership working with the Scottish Food and Drink Federation, Scotland Food and Drink, the Federation of Small Businesses and our further and higher education sectors, as well as key Government agencies.

Scotland has a fantastic larder. We have many unique products that reflect our history and heritage and which present opportunities for us to share them with the world. As a Fifer, I am all too aware of our excellent locally produced products: from Pittenweem fish to Puddledub pork, Fife’s food and drink is world class. It is a larder that many of us have grown up with and it is one that is synonymous with quality and excellence.

Reputation and trust are so important in the food and drink sector and Scotland’s brand is strong. We must do all that we can to enhance and protect that. Our export sector is dominated by Scotch whisky, which is a Scottish and UK success story, as it is the largest food and drink export in both markets. Scotch whisky is a significant product that supports employment in Scotland and opens the door for other products to come on to the international stage.

Our food sector is led by another key product, with demand for Scottish salmon and seafood growing significantly in recent years. I want to see more products and companies being able to build on those successes, move into emerging markets and ensure that our brand can grow beyond industry leaders and iconic names.

As we head into the year of food and drink, we must look to build on the year that we have just had. A strong Scottish tourism sector can showcase our products on our own doorstep, and that was clearly demonstrated at the VisitScotland event in Parliament last night. We have seen excellent growth in visits to Scotland and our food and drink sector plays a key part in that success.

However, we must also address the challenges in the sector and in the country. As the Bank of Scotland report highlights, producers are facing challenges in relation to rising costs, the integrity of the supply chain, food security and meeting global demand. Within the space of a year, expected growth has almost doubled. The potential within the sector is evident, and we must now ensure that that potential is realised—and even exceeded—and that the social and economic benefits are not just experienced by those in the sector but by the workforce and the country at large.

In a world that is seemingly getting smaller—with advances in technology from shipping practices through to food preservation—and with the flourishing of countries in regions such as Asia, where the middle class expected to grow from just over 500 million to more than 3 billion by 2030, new and exciting export markets for Scotland are emerging.

Global interest in food and its provenance is increasing. In tough economic times, the food and drink sector has bucked the trend and seen positive returns. The opportunities for expansion are clearly there. The questions that we must ask ourselves are: how do we create and maintain the conditions for the sector that will enable us to meet that potential; how do we take advantage of emerging markets; and how do we ensure that there is a legacy for the industry for years to come?

I welcome the export plan and the route map that it offers and I welcome the update from the cabinet secretary. The proposals are practical and responsive and I look forward to their implementation.

Last night at the VisitScotland event, I spoke to somebody from the FSB who works with artisan producers in Fife. When we look at international food trends, we can see that there is a lot of potential in such products, but the producers need a bit more support to grow their businesses. Nigel Don raised that issue. Some smaller businesses just need a bit more support to take the next step. Those businesses deliver additional benefits. For example, they provide employment in rural areas, support local tourism and innovation and enhance Scotland’s reputation. It is perhaps an area that could do with a wee bit more focus.

When promoting food and drink and Scotland’s reputation, we also need to consider Scotland’s health record. We have to address our reputation—fair or otherwise—as the sick man of Europe. I was pleased to hear the cabinet secretary raise that issue, which signifies that the Government has been listening to concerns that have been expressed over the past few years that the food debate has been a bit too narrow and that we need to take a much more inclusive approach to it.

Our obesity levels are far too high. It is estimated that in 2030, when we should be taking advantage of the expected 3 billion members of the Asian middle class, we will be facing the £3 billion cost of tackling obesity at home. It does not have to be that way.

Our food and drink export policy has produced clear successes in economic terms, but I welcome the expanded focus of the consultation on “Becoming a Good Food Nation”, including the focus on children’s diet, which Stewart Stevenson mentioned. There are challenges in producing an overarching, inclusive food policy across Government. If it is to be truly inclusive, it is not just up to Richard Lochhead to deliver it. I was pleased to see that Michael Matheson supported the motion, but we need greater commitment from across Government if we are to make progress in these areas. We need to make greater connections between the food and drink sector as an economic driver and the importance of food and drink as a public health issue. With such a magnificent larder, great export figures and quality on our doorstep, we should not be facing significant failings in addressing food poverty, poor health and obesity. We must find solutions to those challenges.

The Scottish Parliament has led on public debates and policy around smoking and alcohol, but we need a serious debate about food. Food in Scotland is an emotive issue; it is much easier to talk about the negatives of tobacco and alcohol. When my colleague Richard Simpson spoke about a soda tax, which has been introduced in France, he got pretty negative coverage—the press mainly saw it as an attack on our other national drink. Tax as a mechanism for changing behaviour is pretty challenging, but we need to have the space in Scotland to have an honest debate about it. I welcome comments about the establishment of a food commission, which might help provide the space for that debate to take place.

By improving Scotland’s diet, we would not only improve our citizens’ health and life chances but enhance our reputation abroad, supporting the message that we are a land of food and drink.

Sustainability, alongside provenance and traceability, is becoming increasingly important in Scotland and internationally. Scotland has a good story to tell in terms of good animal welfare standards and shorter supply chains, but it feels as if the global food market does not always value that. Food and drink is an intensely competitive sector. In recent years there have been consolidations, mergers and acquisitions in Scotland. Recently, the number of independent chicken producers in Scotland fell as the contracts with Hook 2 Sisters were cancelled.

Alongside the desire to promote local, we have to recognise the financial pressures that many families face when it comes to food. My own research shows that a pound—roughly 400g—of sausages at my local farmers market cost me £3.24. At a high street butcher’s in my region, a similar weight of sausages cost me £3.18. A pound of own-brand pork sausages in a big supermarket that offers a whole range of differently priced sausages was £1.38. That is quite a significant difference. Although there is clear evidence to suggest that a cultural shift would be a good thing for Scotland, we need to recognise that part of the debate must be how we ensure that low-income families are not excluded.

When it comes to food safety, we must always be vigilant. We are only too aware of how one food scare can have very negative consequences for a whole industry and that it can take years, if not decades, to recover fully from it. It is so important to maintain reputation. The horsemeat scandal a few years ago exposed the complexity of the food market and its vulnerability to food fraud and criminality. The news this week about bird flu in England is leading to pretty confusing reports for the consumer about the risks to human health. We cannot be complacent. We must also have robust science in order to build consumer confidence and a good understanding of any threats.

The Parliament is currently considering a new food standards bill—the Food (Scotland) Bill—which will create a new food body to take over from the Food Standards Agency and establish new food law provisions. We should use that as an opportunity to bring in robust regulation for the food sector that will ensure consumer confidence and trust.

As the sector grows, it is important that it does so with a long-term, high-quality workforce in place. For the benefit of the industry, our economy and our society, we need to attract future generations into the industry. Earlier this year, I visited a fish manufacturer that is based in West Lothian. It sits on the boundary between Bathgate and Livingston but it still finds it difficult to recruit young people from the local area. We are facing real challenges from youth unemployment, but there is an outdated perception of what working in the food sector involves. When I went to the fish factory, I found that the jobs were fairly paid and secure and involved producing a high-quality product. We must do more to attract young people into the sector.

We also need to ensure that future generations gain the relevant skills to be successful in the global marketplace. Although business programmes remain popular, Scotland is still pretty behind on language skills. Our approach to languages in education is still centred on the traditional languages. We must ask how we can reflect the modern workplace and the business world. If we are talking about Scottish products moving into bigger export markets, we need that flexibility in languages. At recent food and drink events, I have seen a growth in translation services provided by companies that are setting up to help others with that expansion.

We also need investment in research and new product development. For example, there is no more traditional product than oatcakes, but Nairn’s has diversified into gluten-free biscuits and crackers. The United States of America is the company’s most successful market, and gluten-free is its fastest growing export range. Although businesses have the responsibility to invest, there is also the potential for greater collaboration with our further and higher education sectors to bring new products to the market.

With that positive example, as we move into 2015, we can look forward to a year of celebration and of raising the profile of Scottish food and drink. However, the Parliament has much work to do if Scotland is to become a truly good food nation.

I move, as an amendment to motion S4M-11598 to insert at end

“; further recognises the importance of promoting training, skills and apprenticeship opportunities across the sector to encourage future generations into the industry, and believes that an overarching and inclusive food policy that puts accessibility, affordability and sustainability at its heart is key if Scotland’s larder is to be of benefit to all”.

14:56  

Meeting of the Parliament 12 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Will the cabinet secretary comment on the need to bring younger people into the sector and to create apprenticeships? When I visit many businesses in the food and drink industry, such as those in fish processing, they tell me that they find it quite difficult to attract young people as it is seen as an old-fashioned career, rather than one that offers good opportunities.



Meeting of the Parliament 12 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I appreciate the difficulty that there is in delivering CAP reform, but how does the cabinet secretary respond to comments from NFU Scotland that

“the lack of clarity over the transition to the new area payment system is eroding confidence in the reform process”?

After the European Commission rejected the original transition plans, will he soon be able to share the new ones?



Meeting of the Parliament 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

As the cabinet secretary said, banning the use of wild animals in circuses would not necessarily address the issue of overwintering. I am glad that he has had discussions with Aberdeenshire Council. I think that he said that the relevant regulations are from 1976. Does he feel that the regulations are still fit for purpose?



Meeting of the Parliament 04 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement.

We can all spin the statistics one way or another, but we cannot get away from the fact that this is the third year in a row that we have had to analyse why we are missing the statutory annual targets, and that is hugely disappointing. In fact, actual emissions increased between 2011 and 2012. We know that the first three targets were the easiest to hit and that the next one was always going to be very challenging. The drop in emissions that will need to be achieved for us to meet the next target is greater than the total reduction in emissions that was needed for the first three, so we are in a difficult place.

However, as was the case last year, it is clear that we have the potential to meet the targets if the Government would use the levers that it has to make a difference. Every year that the target is missed, it becomes more difficult to achieve the low-carbon economy that we all want to see. To use the minister’s phrase, not to be accusatory, but this session Labour has asked for more than £300 million to be allocated in the budget process to housing and retrofitting. I know that the Government is in trouble when it asks for consensus, but if it were to make the step change that is needed, we would of course be willing to work with it.

The Cabinet sub-committee must be more than just a talking shop. Concrete policies must emerge from it.

One thing that was missing from the statement was mention of new proposals, particularly in housing and transport, which were identified as the weak points. Does the minister have any confidence in the Government’s ability to meet the 2013 target or any yearly targets up to 2020?



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Claire Baker

The cabinet secretary will be aware of the blue badge scheme for drivers or passengers who have mobility problems. Although there was support for the tightening of the regulations to address occasional inappropriate use of the badge, I am still being contacted by constituents who are concerned that, although they have mobility problems, they are refused the badge, and are refused again when the appeal comes around. That happens particularly at the point when the badge is being renewed. Has the cabinet secretary had any discussions with the Minister for Transport and Veterans or the Minister for Local Government and Planning about such concerns and the impact on people who have disabilities?



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
4. Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government how it ensures the fair treatment of disabled people. (S4O-03604)



Meeting of the Parliament 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Claire Baker

That is outrageous.



Meeting of the Parliament 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Claire Baker

The trend that we have seen over recent years is that, while the full-time equivalent figure has gone up, the head count number has been going down, indicating that fewer women are studying in our colleges.

When I had a roundtable discussion with single parents from Levenmouth, they said that the biggest barrier to women going into college was the affordability and availability of childcare. There is an on-going review of the childcare workforce, but what analysis has the Government done of capacity in the childcare sector, which could specifically address the needs of parents who are seeking to go back to college?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
YesCarried

S4M-11567.2 Margaret Mitchell: Lowering the Drink Drive Limit—As an amendment to motion S4M-11567 in
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-11507.1 Cameron Buchanan: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-11507 Angela Constance: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—Th
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-11494.3 Jackie Baillie: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11494.2 Alex Johnstone: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11494 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—That the Parliament
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-11484.1 Jackson Carlaw: Human Rights—As an amendment to motion S4M-11484 in the name of Roseanna
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Claire Baker
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11598.1: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11077: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11075: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11027: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10399: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10328: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 13/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10025: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09992: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 08/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09916.3: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09655: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 07/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Claire Baker
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03784: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03751: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22950: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22951: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03604: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03584: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21927: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 25/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21924: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 25/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21925: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 25/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21926: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 25/06/2014 Show Full Question >>

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