Food in the economy and cultural development: the case of Scotland (Part I)



Over the last decade, there has been a tremendous appeal for food and cooking amongst developed countries. Europe has been flooded of tv programs focusing on various aspects and benefits of cooking : healthy meals, home made meals, learning about products, promoting a national dish or taste… Success in audiences était au rendez-vous, so much so that the publishing world saw the boost of its orders in cookbooks, not to mention the multiplication of cook authors and experts. What had been a niche in the field of leisure became suddenly a national sport, if not a guarantee of savoir-vivre. This trend naturally inspired governmental projects as food has an impact on the economy, tourism and culture. Countries like Scotland have used this new ‘media’ to establish and advocate their independent culture from the United-Kingdom.


Food and drink Scottish tourism with sampling traditional dishes and local produce is the second top activity undertaken by visitors, generating £2.5 millions per day. Scotland exports whisky all over the world, as well as salmon, the UK’s second-largest food export. Over two thirds of the world’s langoustine are sourced in Scotland and Scottish lobsters are on the menus in over 20 Michelin starred restaurants in Tokyo alone, a world food and drink exportation reaching £5.3 billions in 2013. Further more, Scotland is home to the National Fish and Chip Award’s ‘Best Shop in the UK 2015’, and Scottish fish and chip shops have been awarded this accolade nine times since 1988. Glasgow held the coveted title of Curry Capital of Britain four times. Finally, there are 16 Michelin starred restaurants across Scotland, an ideal way to promote the excellence of local produce to international gastronomes.

All the more reasons to celebrate Scottish food and include it in the country’s economic and cultural development: 2015 saw the launch of the Year of Food and Drink in Scotland, a project supported and partly funded by the Scottish Government.
Over 200 events took place during the Year of Food and Drink, celebrating the role that food and drink plays in shaping Scotland’s economic success, promoting Scottish food history, cultural variety through food, and the vast range and high quality produce Scotland offers. Visitors and locals were able to sample Scotland’s delicacies as well as discover traditional and contemporary stories and science behind the savoir-faire of food producers.


Project’s actors and funding


EventScotland, through funding and developing an exciting portfolio of sporting and cultural events EventScotland is helping to raise Scotland’s international profile and boost the economy by attracting more visitors. It has dedicated a fund of £265000 for the organisation of this national project.


The Community Food Fund, established as a result of recommendations contained in the 1996 ground breaking government strategy “Eating for Health: A Diet Action Plan for Scotland”. The task identified was the need to ‘promote and focus dietary initiatives in low-income communities and bring these within a strategic format’. The CFF contributed £150000.


BEMIS works on empowering Scotland’s Ethnic and Cultural minority Communities. The BEMIS fund rose to £52000 which has been used to arrange events across the country celebrating ’Scotland’s mosaic of communities and evolving heritage’. The majority of the fund was available to local diverse community organizations across Scotland to enable them to celebrate Scotland using their own unique cultural characteristics. All this funding has received the support from the Scottish Government.


The actors testimonies


James Withers, chef executive of Scotland Food and Drink on the importance of such a project (démarche):

« Our food and drink offering attracts visitors from across the UK and abroad. With £1 in £5 spent on food and drink by tourists, and visitors in creakingly looking for local food and drink experiences, the food and drink industry is now central to our economic growth and cultural development. […] The food and drink industry is one of the strongest performing sectors in Scotland’s economy and we are blessed with some of the best produce in the world. With 2015 having been designated as the Year of Food and Drink, we can look forward to a year-long celebration of Scotland as a destination for delicious food and drink ».


Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary for cultural, Europe and external affairs:

« Scotland is a stronger and better nation thanks to our diversity. Celebrating the unique and vibrant cultures and traditions of Scotland’s minority ethnic communities will enhance the Year of Food and Drink and the Winter Festival. They events are helping to ensure that there is something for every taste when we welcome people from across the country and the world to celebrate Scotland ».


Dr.Rami Ousta, BEMIS CEO:

«  […] Scotland in 2015 is more diverse than before. We firmly believe that this diversity is an indicator of a dynamic, confident and culturally aware nation. […] The Scottish Government’s approach to creating an ‘inclusive national identity’ should be commended, putting the emphasis onto our grassroots communities places a positive agenda in their hands and reflects a pro-active approach to building community cohesion and sense of belonging ».


Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage Site:

« Edinburgh World Heritage worked with colleagues in the public and private sectors to bring together a trail celebrating Edinburgh’s food heritage to coincide with Scottish Government’s Year of Food and Drink in 2015. Edinburgh has a long gastronomic heritage which we are keen to celebrate and encourage its exploration by visitors and residents alike. This investigation of different aspects of our heritage reflects that we are a multi-layered, dynamic World Heritage Site at the heart of a capital city, and not a museum piece ».


Outcomes of the Year of Food and Drink


In 2015 more than 1000 tourism businesses received the Taste Our Best accreditation, recognising quality food of Scottish origin. The Scottish Government’s analysis emphasised a £550 million rise turnover in the food and drink sector year on year, with a 28% increase since 2008, targeting £16.5 billions by 2017. The Scotland Food and Drink Export Plan aims to capitalise on the industry’s success by focusing on 15 key export markets. In 2014, food expenditures by visitors were £747 millions, rising to £804 millions in 2015. Several new industry collaborations were launched, amongst them the New Scottish Dairy brand which promotes 100% Scottish made dairy products. Furthermore, Scotland’s National Food & Drink Policy, becoming Good Food Nation, saw food waster reduced by almost 8% and Scotland’s Food Commission got launched and operational. 40% of all Scottish Local Authority schools were helped by the Soil Association Food for Life to serve fresh, healthy and sustainable meals.


Eric Galbraith, corporate partner:

« Scotland’s food and drink sector is widely regarded as enjoying a real renaissance. We share the sector’s concern that such growth should not be at the expense of the high standards of quality associated with the national brand.
The real test is to maintain our momentum, grow the sector and for that growth to be achieved without compromising Scottish quality and the integrity of Scotland’s brand.
The Scottish food and drink industry’s reputation is not only based on the quality of its produce, but also on innovation, traceability and safety ».


Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland:

« The Year of Food and Drink 2015 was a phenomenal success, helping to raise the profile of Scotland’s outstanding natural larder on the world stage. It built on the momentum generated by previous themed years, further developing Scotland’s reputation as a Land of Food and Drink ».


Fiona Richmond, Scotland Food & Drink project manager:

« Food and drink is Scotland’s fastest growing sector with a record value of more than £14billions a year announced during the Year of Food and Drink. Scotland has a growing and deserving reputation as a Land of Food and Drink thanks to the topography of unspoiled landscapes, fertile land, clean air and cold, clear waters which give rise to world class produce ».


The Year of Food and drink project was therefore a success in terms of business development, building food quality’s reputation and singling out Scottish culture from the UK. The Scottish Government works independently on a health and quality food plan for its citizens, with the means of local producers, Scotland-based industries and businesses, in order to raise awareness on the matter, understand food heritage as well as to include new food habits in everyday life. So far the project was an efficient stepping stone for the country’s development. The Scottish Government will pursue dedicating a year to each of its strengths. 2017 will be the year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. Ideal to explore the political actions concerning food heritage in a next chapter.

A look back at the success of Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink 2015

A look back at the success of Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink 2015