Buy local demands after report claims ‘critical’ need for support
Public bodies such as the council should be duty-bound to source local produce for use in schools and care centres – a move which could help mitigate against the deep impact Brexit is expected to have on agriculture.
That is the view of isles MSP Tavish Scott, who says the SIC should buy more local produce before having to rely on food from outwith the isles.
Mr Scott has pledged to bring pressure against the Scottish government to change “ridiculous” tendering legislation.
He says local authorities should be duty-bound to buy food locally, if possible.
It comes as a report outlining the challenges facing the local marts and abattoir has been released by the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society.
The report, commissioned by Shetland Livestock Marketing Group and Shetland Agricultural Cooperative Ltd, alludes to “economic multipliers” as a method of calculating how money is retained within an economy.
It states full economic benefit can only be felt if products are produced, processed and consumed locally.
“The critical issue of strengthening the rural economy is central to Shetland’s economy as a whole,” the report states.
“Post-Brexit, this can be achieved through encouraging more local food production and consumption.”
The findings, explored in detail in this issue’s Landwise supplement, also follows signs of deep unease among farming and crofting about the European referendum result, with one industry insider insisting the sector was in a “complete panic” about Brexit.
It comes after long-running concerns surrounding claims the SIC and NHS Shetland buy too much food from south.
In response to that, the council says it follows the same procurement process as all other local authorities. It says some of its produce is bought from within the isles, and insists best value must be sought when buying food. Officials say local producers are unable to provide sufficient quantities of foodstuffs all year round.
“You have to go for the option which is best value,” one official said.
But concerns within the industry have persisted – not least since the council reached a deal with a south-based frozen food producer to ship up meals for care home residents.
The Scottish government has, in the past, appointed a so-called “procurement tsar” – Robin Gourlay – to help local authorities sort out how to do things. But Mr Scott said the new report showed the time to act in support of the industry has come.
“What this report is setting out is a very strong case for much greater procurement by our public agencies of local food,” the MSP said.
• More in this week’s Shetland Times.