We're delighted to publish a short blog from our favourite economist, Margaret Cuthbert, about how Women for Independence can think about the food we buy, and change the world.
At the beginning of the year we had two articles published by Bella Caledonia on food, and it was clear that this is a subject where we as ordinary citizens can make a difference to the Scottish economy.
Buying Scottish produced food means a ready market for our farmers, as well as more jobs in preparing, processing, and distributing food in Scotland. There can be jobs and investment in related trades: research and development, engineering, transport – I could go on.
But over 80% of the money we spend on food and non-alcoholic drinks is through supermarkets: that is around £12 billion in Scotland. They are convenient, have a good stock, and can be considerably cheaper than other alternatives. The problem is that many– Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury, Morrisons – might advertise that they support Scottish produce, but when it comes to looking at their overall turnover, and at the range of Scottish foods they carry, the percentage of Scottish produced food is pretty small. For Tesco, just over 7% of its sales in Scotland are of Scottish goods.
Contrast that with SuperValu in Ireland which has more than 25% of Ireland’s grocery market and manages to have more than 75% of its goods of Irish origin.
Think how that helps the Irish economy.
There is another thought too. If we see more Scottish goods in Scottish stores, maybe more of us will get the confidence to think of starting businesses; maybe more of us will demand better service from the banks.
So is there a possible role for Women for Independence here: can it help nudge on the Scottish economy in the matter of food? Yes, if local groups, and the national group want to make this an issue, I believe that they could have a big impact on supermarket behaviour.
All of this is, of course, just one aspect of food in Scotland. What is happening to the rivers? Wild fish stocks in rivers are a measure of water purity. Last year, Scotland saw a dramatic fall in the number of wild salmon caught and there has been a major drop in brown trout in many rivers.
What is happening to the land? Land previously grazed or cultivated is now being sold off for the leisure pursuit of bringing up horses.
Altogether, a lot of areas where Women for Independence could get involved.