Physical Activity, Diet and Healthy Weight

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 15th November 2018.

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Photo of Alex Cole-Hamilton Alex Cole-Hamilton Liberal Democrat

The point is well made and speaks to the fact that nomenclature—how we describe things—matters here.

I enjoy serving with David Stewart on the Health and Sport Committee; he knows a lot about this issue and he cares a lot about it. He was quite right to identify the overmedicalisation of some of these problems at the expense of the fundamental recognition that a lot of them are social problems. They are symptoms of wider social problems, whether that is social exclusion, poverty or any of a range of other inequalities that exist. It was an important point to make. I congratulate him on the diabetes dinner that he held last night—I am sorry that I could not attend, as 260,000 of our fellow Scots are currently suffering from type 2 diabetes.

I associate myself with Alison Johnstone’s point about active travel. Active travel really matters; it matters in my constituency, where we have two of the most polluted thoroughfares in the whole of Scotland. One of the points in the five-point plan that I have identified is about investing heavily in active travel, so I am happy to support Alison Johnstone’s important point about active travel.

In an exchange with John Mason, Alison Johnstone also talked about the existence of what are called “food deserts”. It is very easy to say that you can cook a meal from scratch cheaply and effectively if you have the means, but that is of no use to people who live 2.5 miles away from the nearest fresh fruit and vegetables.

Moving on to Bruce Crawford’s excellent contribution, for full disclosure, I say that I had the mac and cheese. I went for the skinny fries though; I think that counts.

We talked about the natural capital that we as a country have at our disposal for physical activity. We should never tire of reminding ourselves of the beautiful country that we live in and the asset that it represents.

Liz Smith is another contributor who is significantly more active than I am. I am glad that she took my intervention, because I think that it is important that our kids understand how the food that they eat in their schools and homes gets to their plate. That will start a lifelong interest that will pay health dividends.

I will not talk about Stewart Stevenson and the night that I ended up in the same Thai restaurant as him. He clearly used most of his ration book on what I saw him consume that night.

Iain Gray picked up on the school meals issue. I am delighted to say that we will support the Labour amendment, because it is absolutely right. Free schools meals are only available during term time and we need to recognise that that is a yawning gap, particularly during the summer months.

Before I finish, I want to thank Emma Harper. Her contributions to these debates are always very important. Her lived experience as a nurse lends a lot to the Health and Sport Committee, as it does to these debates. Her insight, particularly into hip fractures and support for a falls strategy, is welcome indeed.

Hippocrates said:

“let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.

That is an ancient quote, but it is still apposite today. In my early days on the Health and Sport Committee, a leading clinician—I cannot remember who it was—said that the six best doctors that we have at our disposal in Scotland are sunlight, air, exercise, sleep, water and vegetables. I cannot think of a better way of summing up the preventative and proactive agenda that we are all forging together tonight.