The Right to Food in Scotland during COVID-19

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has published a briefing on The Right to Food in Scotland during COVID-19. The briefing explains how COVID-19 has affected the right to food, exacerbating already high levels of food insecurity in Scotland. Despite the large-scale mobilisation of communities and civil society to meet need, emergency community-based provision is not a rights based approach for the long-term.

Many people were already experiencing financial hardship due to recent reforms of UK social security payments, insecure and low paid work, and the rising costs of living. There have been a number of additional impacts from COVID-19 highlighted in the briefing:

  • physical accessibility of food has become significantly challenged due to restrictions on movement;
  • increased job insecurity and loss of income as a result of lockdown measures;
  • disruption to food supply chains;
  • the difficulties of people who are shielding in physically accessing food, and others who require support but do not meet shielding criteria; and
  • the challenges of accessing culturally appropriate and nutritious food in lockdown.

Read the full briefing (PDF) 

The briefing also details how COVID-19 and associated policy responses have had a disproportionate impact on particular groups including disabled people, people from BME communities, single parents and women. Children and young people have also been significantly affected by food insecurity due to lower incomes, different nutritional needs and the impact on the provision and distribution of school meals.

Judith Robertson, Chair of the Commission, said:

“Everyone in Scotland has the right to food – this is set out in international human rights laws that Scotland is signed up to. Food insecurity is unacceptably high in Scotland and the situation has been further exacerbated by COVID-19.

“From a rights perspective, the economic damage caused by the health pandemic must not be shouldered by those least able to bear the cost.

“The Scottish Human Rights Commission is calling on the Scottish Government to take a rights-based approach as we plan for recovery from the pandemic. This should include pressing ahead with incorporating economic, social, cultural and environmental rights into Scotland’s laws so that we have a robust framework for the future when it comes to fully realising everyone’s right to food.”



(i) The Scottish Human Rights Commission and Nourish Scotland launched an animation in November 2019 on the Right to Food in Scotland. The animation can be viewed at:

(ii) In April 2019, the Commission called for the right to food to be incorporated into Scots law in our response to the Scottish Government's Consultation on Good Food Nation Proposal