A call for change has been issued after new figures suggested schools source less than a fifth of their food from Scotland.

A Freedom of Information response to a request by the Scottish Conservatives suggested that councils spent just 16% of their budget for school food on produce sourced in Scotland.

A further 15% of school food is sourced elsewhere, and is then manufactured in Scotland, according to the figures.

While not all school food is purchased through Scotland Excel, the shared national procurement service, 28 of the country’s 32 local authorities use it and the Scottish Conservatives believe local food producers should be better supported to reduce food miles.

Brian Whittle, Scottish Conservative spokesman for sport and wellbeing, said:“We ask our farmers to produce the highest quality produce; we charge them with custodianship of the countryside; with paying the living wage and with the highest standards of animal welfare.

“Yet when it comes to public food procurement it is clear that our farmers are not being supported in the way that they should.

“These figures show that a substantial amount of school food is still travelling thousands of food miles before reaching a child’s plate.

“One of the key elements in tackling health inequalities and the stubborn attainment gap surely should be ensuring the high quality food produced right here in Scotland makes its way to the Scottish Schools’ dining halls.

“That is evidently not the norm and needs to change, to support our children’s health and wellbeing, to support our food producers and to cut back on an unnecessary carbon footprint.”

Fife was one of the worst offenders in Scotland, with around £676,310 of the near £3 million spent on school food in the region spent in Scotland – just 23% of the total.

Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Murdo Fraser said: “It is in everyone’s interest to put more Scottish food on the plates of school pupils in Fife.

“Fife is home to some of the most fertile land in Scotland and there is no excuse for not using products grown and manufactured here.

“According to the figures, Fife Council even spent money on raspberries from Serbia and Poland despite being one of the nation’s top berry producers.”

Keith Breasley, hospitality service manager with Fife Council, defended the approach.

He said: “Like most councils, all our food is sourced through national procurement frameworks through Scotland Excel.

“The only exception is fruit and vegetables, which we source through council procurement processes.”

Perth and Kinross Council fared better with 44%, or £24,805 of its £56,734 spend, while Angus’ total Scottish spend stood at 86%, or £35,412 of the £41,080 spent.

According to the figures, Dundee City was the only Scottish local authority to boast a 100% Scottish spend rate, with its total core spend of £18,316 spent north of the border.

A spokesperson for Scotland Excel said stressed that Scotland Excel does not buy food on behalf of schools nor control local authority budgets for this.

“We develop and manage frameworks which Scotland’s councils can use to source a range of goods and services – and this includes arrangements for frozen food, groceries, milk, fresh meats and fish,” a spokesperson added.

“Almost 31% of the money spent by local authorities through our frameworks is spent on food that has been produced or manufactured in Scotland. Over the past three years, the value of this has increased by 48% as a result of our efforts to create opportunities for Scottish food companies to bid for contracts.”

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