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What it’s like being a young person on the front line of Food Standards Scotland’s Brexit preparations

Amber year of young people blog














This is the second blog in a series to celebrate some of our young talent in support of the Scottish Government’s Year of Young People.

Amber Souter, 26, is a Policy Advisor making sure that we’re fulfilling our role as the nation’s food regulator. Her role has changed since Brexit and she’s one of many working hard to get things in place for Britain leaving the European Union (EU).

What is a Policy Advisor at FSS?

I’m the contact point for all EU and international matters within FSS. I need to coordinate meetings and ensure procedures are up-to-date so that colleagues have relevant guidance and can demonstrate best practice.

My day-to-day work has changed since the UK made the decision to leave the EU. Now we’re working hard to make sure that all food and feed law continues to operate effectively from the first day the UK leaves the EU.  

It means tight deadlines and lots of change, but I enjoy being part of the process and understanding the bigger picture of how the changes will come into place in Scotland.

​The majority of food and feed law in Scotland and the UK stems from European legislation so this is a mammoth task.  Our overall focus on ensuring what ends up on our plates is safe and authentic keeps me motivated.

What does a typical day in your working life look like?

I’m an early bird, so I like to take advantage of our flexible working policy and get into the office early most mornings.

On a normal day, I’ll have a variety of tasks waiting in my inbox. This can include coordinating European Standing Committee meetings to ensure policy officials seek to influence the European decision making process to ensure Scottish policy interests are represented. 

More recently I’ve spent a lot of time working with the team to ensure the Scottish and UK statute book is prepared for Brexit.

It’s really exciting to be on the front line of legislation that helps to regulate food, food production, and food safety in Scotland.  

By lunchtime, I’m ready to step out with the FSS running group. We regularly run a 5K route along the River Dee and through Duthie Park in Aberdeen. FSS supports a healthy work life balance and has a Healthy Working Lives accreditation.  This helps to ensure we’re healthy at work which I enjoy

Tell us about your progression within the Civil Service?

When I left school at 18, I joined Education Scotland as an Inspection Administrator. After three years, I became the Aberdeen Office Manager and was subsequently promoted to Corporate Business Manager.  Both of these roles were also in Education Scotland.

In 2015, I applied to become a Policy Advisor at FSS, which works alongside, but is separate from, the Scottish Government.

All of my roles in the Civil Service have been varied, challenging and have prepared me for my current job with some great managers supporting my career ambitions. The ongoing support and regular meetings to discuss my continued professional development and career ambitions are invaluable.

What advice would you give to other young people looking to do something similar?

Try to be involved as much as possible and take part in each opportunity that comes your way. I’ve taken full advantage of the various training opportunities available, and the Civil Service has great career progression opportunities.

I also benefit greatly from volunteering to be part of different committees and groups, and I would encourage others to do the same. For example, I’m part of our Charities Committee and I’m a Social Media Champion for our team. Networking with colleagues from different teams and developing your understanding of their roles will also put you in good stead for the future.

What does the Year of Young People mean to you?

It’s raising awareness of the contribution we make and how we can help shape the future.

I think that FSS celebrates young people every year, offering us opportunities to succeed. It’s also a supportive organisation, and the attitude to a work life balance and training allows us the opportunity to have experiences and take on new challenges to further our careers.

What is the most exciting thing you have worked on in FSS?

The Codex Alimentarius Commission is an international body whose main goals are to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the international food trade. It has several working groups, and it was one of these that met in Edinburgh where I helped out.

More than 60 delegates visited from 30 countries around the world and the level of cooperation was really inspiring. It really brought home how collaboration and sharing knowledge can help deal with complex issues in a way that helps as many people as possible.

Tell us an interesting fact about you?

In the last weekend of October I ran The Illuminator, a 15-mile night time race up and down the hills at Glen Tanar in Aberdeenshire with just the glow of a head torch to light my way. I ran in memory of my grandfather, Sandy Souter.  He was a member of Braemar Mountain Rescue and I’m getting married at Glen Tanar in Spring, so I felt this was the perfect way to honour him and take on a new challenge.

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Year of Young People

Find out how Food Standards Scotland is getting involved in the Year of the Young People 2018

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