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Public Water Supplies (Fluoridation)

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 18th November 2004.

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Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat 12:00 pm, 18th November 2004

To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Executive's position is on the fluoridation of public water supplies. (S2F-1212)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I confirm that we are currently considering our full response to our consultation on improving the oral health of Scotland's children. Given the public interest in the matter, I can confirm that, having listened to the views that have been expressed, we will not be changing the current legislation on fluoridation of water supplies in this Parliament. We will, however, introduce a range of other measures to improve the dental health of children, especially in the early years.

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat

I welcome whole-heartedly the First Minister's response. Scotland's poor oral health is a given. Will he now promote increased action through schools and health visitors to encourage good tooth-brushing technique among children, perhaps backed up with free toothbrushes and free toothpaste?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

There are a number of good examples of, for example, school and community breakfast clubs that are assisting with the brushing of young children's teeth early in the morning. That is partly a way of training them in that basic skill, but it is also a way of encouraging them to improve their dental health.

We should not underestimate or play down the importance of the issue. Although, for obvious reasons, we cannot go out there and brush people's teeth for them, we can—[Interruption.]

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

We can try to create a culture in which young people and their parents take the issue more seriously; in which more parents are encouraged to register their children with dentists; in which there is a greater availability of services; and in which young people are motivated to continue not just brushing their teeth, but looking after their dental hygiene as a whole. That is a real challenge for us. When we outline our proposals for improving oral health in Scotland's children, a comprehensive package will be put in place.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

The Scottish Executive has long professed neutrality on this issue. I welcome the First Minister's confirmation that fluoridation will not be carried out yet, or under the forthcoming bill; however, can he explain why a neutral Scottish Executive has been funding the pro-fluoridation lobby for many years? Those are not impartial experts giving neutral advice, but pro-fluoridation lobbyists giving advice to the Scottish Executive and funded with taxpayers' money. Is it not true that the Scottish Executive has been doing that for far too long, needs to stop doing it and needs to accept that fluoridation has been rejected by the Scottish people as a wasteful, polluting, untargeted move and a distraction from the food issues that affect the Scottish diet?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

It might have been better just to say, "We welcome the announcement." Over the past two months, members of all parties have talked a lot about raising our game in the Parliament. We are talking about a serious issue that affects the hygiene and health of thousands of young Scottish children every year. First, we need to have a sensible debate about the matter and, when we agree, we should not make up false disagreements. Secondly, we do not need the laughter and the calls of "Whitewash," that have come from the Scottish National Party when we talk about a basic issue of children's health. If the Scottish Parliament is going to do anything for this country, it is going to improve the health of the population. I believe that trying to tackle poor oral hygiene in young children is just as important as trying to tackle smoking.