Our guiding ambition is to halve child obesity in Scotland by 2030. I will publish a new diet and healthy weight delivery plan this summer, which will include a range of measures to encourage children to develop healthy food habits that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Among such measures will be legislation to reduce junk food marketing.
Yesterday, the Deputy First Minister launched a consultation on proposed amendments to the Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2008. Although we have high and internationally admired nutritional standards for our school meals, we want to go further. Our proposals are based on the latest scientific and expert advice as well as the views of local authorities, schools and catering staff. School food and drink policies and lunch menus should be developed in collaboration with pupils and parents to ensure that everyone is clear about the role that they can play in supporting healthy food habits.
Everyone has a role to play in empowering children and young people to make positive health choices. That is one of the reasons why the consultation is so important: rather than seek the views and opinions of just one group of people, it reaches out to parents, catering staff, local authorities and pupils and young people themselves. Everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the consultation, which will close at the end of August, to ensure that we can strengthen our already robust and internationally lauded regulations on school food and make them even better. Implementation will also involve input from the groups that Bob Doris mentioned.
Sometimes what happens outside the school grounds is as significant as what goes on in the school canteen. How will the Scottish Government address the wider issue—this is something that I see in my constituency—of many students having easy access, close to their schools, to the fast food outlets that offer the most unhealthy food of all?
We want to look at the food environment that encourages poor health choices, and we are committed to making it as easy as possible for everyone to make healthier choices.
One lever that is available to us is the planning system. We commissioned research on how best to use the planning system, alongside other measures, to create a healthier food environment, in particular around schools, given the issue that Bob Doris raised. The final report will be published soon and we will consider its implications when we review the national planning framework and Scottish planning policy. We also consulted on the issue in the context of our diet and healthy weight strategy, which we will publish in the summer.
The Scottish Conservatives made a freedom of information request to health boards last year on the number of referrals to weight management classes. The eight boards that responded to us accounted for more than 5,000 referrals. What work has been undertaken to provide additional capacity to cope with referrals of children to weight management classes, given that some of the children who were referred were reported to be between the ages of two and four?
The member’s question underlines the need for a whole-system approach to tackling the challenge of diet and obesity, which is why it is important that the Deputy First Minister has launched a consultation on what we can do in the school environment. T he expansion of early learning and childcare also presents opportunities to ensure that children are supported in the early years of their lives, and the forthcoming diet and obesity strategy will consider increasing capacity in relation to weight management solutions. There will be no single solution to the challenge of obesity; we must ensure that all systems are joined up, so that we can make the impact in Scotland that I think all members agree we need to make.
We know that, on top of diet, access to and participation in sport and physical activity play a vital role in tackling obesity. We must do everything that we can to support the uptake of physical activity, particularly by young people, yet, in the past few weeks, Scottish National Party councillors in Glasgow and Dundee have imposed charges on access to swimming, which impact most on those who can least afford to pay. This year, the active healthy lives budget—
Mary Fee has chosen to ignore all the fantastic work going on right across the country that is delivered by a range of partners, including in schools. The Government has ensured that two hours of physical education per week is delivered by 98 per cent of schools, which is a huge difference from what we inherited from Ms Fee’s colleagues when they left government. She fails to acknowledge the active schools legacy, which ensures that every child—regardless of income or background—has the opportunity to participate in sport. She also fails to recognise the fact that we have ambitions to make Scotland the first daily mile nation. I am not sure whether Mary Fee knows about or does the daily mile, but the evidence behind it certainly shows that it has an impact on children’s lives and life opportunities and embeds physical activity in their lives.
Therefore, although Mary Fee might want to paint a doom-and-gloom picture, there are huge reasons for feeling optimistic because, through the actions of the Government, children and young people across Scotland have access to opportunities to participate in sporting activity and are encouraged to do so. I point to the briefing that members had from sportscotland on the celebration of team Scotland’s success on the Gold Coast, which showed that that work is paying dividends across many parts of the country.