Are the region’s schools and hospitals sourcing food locally?

BBC Scotland made freedom of information requests to all 32 Scottish councils about the sourcing of food products bought last year.

Despite campaigns by the Scottish Government to buy local produce. Of the 28 authorities which responded, it was found £1.3 million was spent on chicken products from Thailand, more than £125,000 on carrots from Belgium, £125,000 on mashed potato from France and almost £12,000 on raspberries from Serbia.

scottish 2food        Read more about Scottish food here:

Farmers said they want to see more done by councils to source local produce and  the Scottish Greens first raised the issue of councils buying chicken from Thailand in 2013.The party’s health spokeswoman Alison Johnstone said:

“It’s disappointing that, three years on from our investigation, this remains a problem. Our economy is losing out. Government food policy remains too focused on exports rather than supporting local procurement. Councils need support so they can buy Scottish more often.”

A review of food and drink nutrition in schools is now under way. John Swinney, the education secretary, said that he wants school food to be “sourced as locally as possible” and has asked experts from Food Standards Scotland, NHS Health Scotland and Education Scotland where provision can be improved.

LWM is working with a number of partners to promote this agenda.  While the Carter Review of 2015 put obstacles in the way of localising NHS procurement, with its insistence on frameworks and catalogues, it recognised the value of locally sourced food.  County Hospital, Stafford was one of the first to gain a gold Food for Life Catering Mark, an initiative of the Soil Association recognised by NHS England.  This experience is being passed on through the West Midlands NHS Sustainability Network.

The fragmentation of the schools system means it’s less clear how many schools are following this approach, though many are growing their own salads and fruit as part of healthy eating projects.  In Smethwick, Victoria Park Academy has its own social enterprise, Ballot Street Spice, and it’s hoped they will sell their spice mixes at the Midland Met Hospital food market when it opens.  The Department for Education has recognised the Food for Life Catering Mark, and the government plan for Procurement cites it as a best practice tool.



Creative devolution: Scottish government commissions review of its town centres

Some of the recommendations made by the panel of the National Review of Town Centres, which was chaired by architect Malcolm Fraser and included business figures and public bodies are:

report cover scottish town centres

  • A “town centre first” principle whereby public bodies will consider how they can support town centres before considering development elsewhere.
  • Working with housing providers to bring empty town centre properties back into use as affordable housing.
  • A town centre focus to review current business rates incentivisation schemes.
  •  A recommendation that public bodies should consider the impact of proposals to relocate services out of town centres.
  • Broadening the appeal of town centres with a mix of leisure, public facilities and  homes.

Mr Fraser said: “Our review offers the Scottish Government, and the people of Scotland, a range of measures to bring investment and footfall into the heart of our communities.

The report draws attention to the way in which the tax system, controlled from Westminster, encourages out-of-town development:

“The iniquity of the VAT system, whereby a new-build in a field on the edge of town is publicly subsidised by being excused VAT, while the repair of an existing building is burdened with the full 20%, is a formal UK-wide encouragement that squanders our resources, by hugely disadvantaging the old buildings and existing town centres at the heart of our communities.”

Scottish Retail Consortium Director, Fiona Moriarty, said: “It is clear that if town centres are to flourish then they must diversify to include living, social, cultural and leisure activities.

“However, in doing so we mustn’t lose sight that retail is at the heart of Scottish communities and should remain a key component of any successful town centre.

“This means that lowering the costs and complexities of doing business on our high streets must be seen as a priority.”

The Scottish government said that the work of the review will play a “crucial role” in regenerating high streets.


Read the document here:

George Morran: Why Regional Government?


George Morran, LWM’s vice-chairman, writes:

George Morran -1Devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has brought greater proximity and therefore ownership of decision-making to those communities.

Increasingly different approaches to public policy have developed, reflecting local circumstances and aspirations, rather than Westminster and Whitehall’s one approach fits all – in particular the interests of those in London and the south east.

In Europe a federal system of government has underpinned economic and political vitality for decades as it has in North America and elsewhere.

There is widespread agreement that economic and political decision-making is far too centralised and incapable of leading and supporting moves to more localised and sustainable economies.

Reform is urgently needed, but the power brokers at Westminster, Whitehall and our existing large Local Authorities are tied into defending their positions and resisting change. That is why we need community action.


Regional Government for England has to be part of wider constitutional reform:


  • the downsizing and refocusing of Westminster and Whitehall;
  • the establishment of an inclusive sub national government in England based on democratic local community and regional government,
  • working as an equal partner with a reformed Westminster and Whitehall and existing devolved administrations elsewhere in the UK


George Morran has had extensive experience in local and regional affairs, being Director of the West Midlands Regional Forum of Local Authorities (1991-98), Assistant Chief Executive Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and currently consultant specialising in regional governance, Vice-chair of Localise West Midlands, research associate at Aston University’s Business School and project director of the West Midlands Constitutional Convention 


forum of regions 13 header


June 6th, 2013, news of the  Second Forum of Regions, Lyon, Rhône Alpes, France:


The Organization of Regions United FOGAR (ORU – FOGAR) and UCLG, The Global Network of Cities, Local and Regional Governments in conjunction with the Rhône Alpes, invited regional representatives of the world to gather in Lyon. The Forum’s theme was: “Regions – actors for change; a recognition of the richness of diversity for an economic and innovative development”.

It highlighted the importance of regional governments in raising the voice of the people through the exchange of experiences on the role of regions in a sustainable development perspective.


Many Scots want more localised power

The headline, a reflection indirectly related to the dialogue called for in the last blog, was given to a letter from Patrick Grant, a Scottish businessman, published in the Financial Times. He wrote:

“. . . Globalisation has created enormous polarisation in society and the economy.

“A predominance of large corporate incumbents, coupled with over-centralised government (largely based in the south-east), has contributed to an increasing lack of diversity in the economy and in society . . . it is not surprising that many in Scotland, particularly the young, would prefer a more localised power structure with policies more relevant to Scotland’s particular issues.”

Many English also want a more accountable and localised power structure, with the financial resources to address the region’s problems.

Let dialogue begin!

Growing local willow to heat local houses and businesses: good – or not?

Gordon Davidson reported last week on the Hill of Banchory project – the largest community scale biomass district heating scheme in Scotland, which will now provide renewable heating and hot water to 102 homes and the Banchory Business Park.

Eventually it will supply more than 600 homes and businesses, including a leisure centre, swimming pool, care home and hotel.

Renewable energy firm Jigsaw Energy planted the short rotation coppice willow nearby four years ago and the first 7 hectares of that 30 ha willow crop harvested at the start of March is now drying out.

Energy development manager, Guy Milligan [above] explained: “After the first year, the crop is cut back to ground level to encourage coppicing. The willow is then cut every three years for the next 20. The amount of willow harvested this year is the equivalent of heating around 50 homes for a year.

“The fact that we grow our own willow to create heat for homes in the area means we have complete sustainability of supply. We will also buy woodchip from a local sawmill, further supporting the local economy.”

Remembering the murmuring of one colleague that burning anything pollutes, I hoped to find some reference to trapping emissions but only saw this on Scotland’s FOE site:

Burning biomass releases large amounts of solid carbon combustion particles and gases into the air and there is uncertainty about the impact of these emissions on human health. The UK is currently failing to meet legally binding EU air quality standards in many areas, including in areas in Scotland where biomass plants are proposed.