Ian Stewart: Recipe for growth in Scottish food and drink

Scotland is renowned for much more than just whisky and haggis. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Scotland is renowned for much more than just whisky and haggis. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Introduction to Vision Scotland, Autumn 2016: Ian Stewart, Editorial Director of The Scotsman reflects on the Scottish food and drink sector

THE food and drink industry in Scotland is an enormous success story, which continues to smash its growth targets. Scotland as a whole constantly celebrates its successes and its potential for further expansion, especially in export markets.

A large part of its growth is down to good story-telling. The “Land of Food and Drink” marketing has resonated widely as consumers look for premium products with good provenance; the idea of the quality and authenticity of Scotch whisky, seafood, smoked salmon, Scotch beef, Scottish cheeses and much more is proving highly attractive.

There is much more to be done, as whisky still dominates the export market and many sub-sectors of the food and drink industry can clearly do much more to drive up sales abroad.

The foreign cities being targeted by Scotland Food and Drink as part of a global expansion plan should help drive that agenda forward.

Yet there is a bigger story here. The economic importance of food and drink is vital in delivering jobs, investment and economic growth to Scotland as historic behemoths like oil and gas decline – but food and drink can have a genuinely higher purpose too.

As Shirley Spear writes in her introduction to this issue, food and drink affects us all; we need it to sustain life.

As a result, it has a massive part to play in how we live our lives, and in helping improve the diet and lifestyle of Scotland as a whole.

Pulling together all the strands of activity to achieve this, across the public and private sector, is a very challenging task.

The creation of the Scottish Food Commission, under the chairmanship of the redoubtable Spear, recognises this – and while there is a long way to go, the signs are positive.

Spear sees very clearly that collaboration is crucial, that we all need to pull together to turn an economic success story into something much more; an industry which can improve the health of Scotland.

That’s what Spear is talking about when she articulates the idea of building a “good food nation” and what that really means.

This magazine celebrates and encourages this kind of collaboration across the public and private sector, and it will continue to do so.

This issue also highlights the incredible innovation going on in our food and drink sector – not just in primary production, but in skills development, recruitment and even in dealing with food waste.

In all these areas, we have businesses which are stepping up to the mark as the food and drink industry moves on to the next level of maturity and complexity.

In so doing, they are making a real difference to our economy, to our communities – and potentially to our lives.

• This article appears in the Autumn 2016 edition of Vision Scotland. An online version can be read here. Further information about Vision Scotland here.