Celebrity chef Nick Nairn has hailed the media furore that has blown up over the past 24 hours surrounding the food blog by schoolgirl Martha Payne as a wonderful opportunity to debate the future of school meals in Scotland.
Nine-year-old Payne, who became an overnight sensation with her daily posts on her school meals blog Never Seconds, was yesterday banned by Argyll and Bute Council from taking photographs of her lunches.
However, following incredulity on social media forums that a young girl should be gagged, the ban was overturned at lunchtime by council leader Roddy McCuish.
He told the BBC: "It is a good thing to do, to change your mind, and I have certainly done that."
It is believed the ban was originally imposed on Payne, from Lochgiphead, Argyll, after a photograph appeared in the Daily Record on Wednesday of Payne with Nairn flambéing a dish at a summit on school meals. The accompanying headline, "Time to fire the dinner ladies", resulted in council officials at Argyll and Bute stating that it had "led catering staff to fear for their jobs".
Nairn said that there had been no criticism of dinner ladies in the Daily Record article and that the headline was the result of a sub-editor having fun with a light-hearted picture.
"Thank goodness sense has now prevailed and, as a result of intervention at a ministerial level, the council has now withdrawn its ban," explained Nairn, who was photographed with Payne at a meeting attended by school meals providers, nutritionists and local authority representatives to discuss food in schools.
He invited Payne to attend because he had been so impress by her blog. "I invited her to judge a competition we held at the event to cook nutritious and appetising food for £1.05 per head.
"Martha is a remarkable young lady. Her blog is honest and totally engaging and what she has done is to highlight to a wider audience - by posting photographs of school meals from around the world - that food in Scottish schools is not nearly as good as many people would like to think it is."
Nairn, who runs two cookery schools in Port of Menteith and Aberdeen, said that he had been campaigning for improvements to school meals in Scotland for 15 years and had continually tried to engage with government on the matter, but had been battered back by bureaucracy.
"What has happened today is people power. Through social media, ordinary people have stood up and said this is not good enough: you can't gag a nine-year-old who is telling the truth.
"Now we have a huge opportunity to take this subject forward and to put school meals at the centre of the political agenda in Scotland."
By Janet Harmer
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