Diet Products (Celebrity Endorsements)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 27th March 2019.

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Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-16069, in the name of Shona Robison, on the impact of celebrity endorsements of diet products. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the petition, “LET’S STOP influencers and celebrities working with products promoting speedy weight loss”, which has been organised by the founder of the Empowered Women Project, Mandy Jones, and can be found on change.org; understands that Mandy has launched the petition to highlight the dangers of advertising products that encourage rapid weight loss; believes that many celebrities have stated that weight loss companies require a before and after photo when promoting their products, often taken on the same day, which can construct an inaccurate portrayal of healthy weight loss as a result of using a product; acknowledges the potentially significant damaging effects that portrayals of unrealistic body expectations, which are often perpetuated by, and shared widely across, social media, can have on the mental health of young people and adults; notes that Wellbeing Works, Dundee supports the petition stating that the inaccurate portrayal of healthy weight loss as a result of using a product is just one of many messages that young people might be vulnerable to, and that will impact negatively on their confidence and self-esteem and on the relationship that they have with their bodies, and considers that, in some cases, these negative perceptions and poor self-image could potentially go on to affect young women in their life choices, relationships and career opportunities, and ultimately impact on their mental health and wellbeing as they move into adulthood.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

I thank the many MSPs across the chamber who have added their names to my motion. It shows that the issue and, importantly, the need to confront it has overwhelming support from across this Parliament.

My motion highlights the petition, “LET’S STOP influencers and celebrities working with products promoting speedy weight loss”, which can be found on change.org. It has already gained more than 7,000 signatures and was organised by the founder of the empowered women project, Mandy Jones, whom I welcome to Parliament, along with others.

We all know the pressures that young people, particularly girls and women, face these days to look good or have the perfect body, and the damaging effect that that can have on their mental wellbeing. As the mum of a 15-year-old daughter, I know that very well.

The Office for National Statistics reported that young people who describe themselves as relatively unhappy with their appearance report higher levels of behavioural and emotional difficulties than those who are relatively happy with their appearance. In Scotland, the health behaviour in school-aged children survey found that at the age of 15 more than half of girls described themselves as too fat. According to Wellbeing Works, Dundee, that perception makes them incredibly vulnerable to the kind of irresponsible and false advertising that promotes speedy weight loss.

A lot of the time, that advertising uses influencers or celebrities to get its message across and it is put out across social media to target specific audiences. The adverts are generally accompanied by before and after photos, often taken on the same day, giving an inaccurate portrayal of the effect of the advertised product. Examples of that type of advert that have then been banned are not hard to find. One for Flat Tummy Tea that appeared on Instagram with before and after photos was banned for the misleading health claims that it made, while others have been banned on the ground of social irresponsibility for promoting unhealthy body images.

I recognise the work that the Advertising Standards Authority does in investigating those types of adverts, but I would like further restrictions to be introduced and for the ASA to take a more proactive role in policing that type of advertising. To that end, I have been working closely with my colleague Alison Thewliss MP, because the role of the ASA is reserved, to see how we can further highlight the issues and work with the ASA to combat them.

I met the ASA recently and I know that it would like to do more. One of the outcomes of the meeting was an agreement that my office would collect and compile a dossier of examples of that type of advert to pass on to the ASA for further investigation. I urge my fellow MSPs and the public to get in touch with me with any examples of adverts that they have concerns about and we will take them forward.

I would like celebrities and others to understand the influence that they can have on younger people and, ultimately, for them to stop endorsing those unhealthy and damaging weight-loss products. They need to realise the negative impact of their endorsements, as Lucinda Evelyn did. She is an Instagram influencer from Glasgow who came out against promoting weight-loss products, saying:

“It’s almost sort of selling anorexia, eating disorders and mental health problems. It was selling people insecurity and I didn't really agree with that so decided to step back from those kinds of products”.

Good for her!

In July 2018, the Scottish Government published “A Healthier Future—Scotland’s Diet & Healthy Weight Delivery Plan”, which recognised the role that advertising, including celebrity endorsements, can play in helping people to make healthier, more responsible food choices. The plan highlighted the need to

“shift advertising towards healthier options to empower people to make choices ... that support their” health

“and wellbeing”.

I hope that, rather than contributing to the problem, celebrities will help to promote that vision.

I understand that the Scottish Government will soon publish research that explores the reported worsening of mental wellbeing among adolescent girls in Scotland, to which body image and social media appear to be large contributing factors. Perhaps in her reply, the minister could outline what action the Scottish Government might take as a result of the research.

Although the Advertising Standards Authority, Governments and, ultimately, celebrities and influencers have their part to play, social media companies need to take more responsibility for the content that is advertised on their platforms. Unfortunately, I am still waiting on a response from Facebook and Instagram. I would like those companies to be more proactive and socially responsible in dealing with such advertising, and I invite them to let us know what action they will take to address those issues.

We all need to work together if we are to tackle the issues effectively. I would also like to use the debate to enable a wider discussion on the societal pressures on young people and adults to obtain Instagram-worthy lives and the impact that that is having on mental health. As I said, I have a 15-year-old daughter, so I see at first hand the pressure on young people to conform to a societal or social media definition of what is beautiful. I am sure that we can all relate to that.

We want to send a different message to our young people, one with the hashtags #BeHappyAndHealthy, #BeBeautifulInYourOwnWay and #BeWhatMakesYouYou. I hope that the debate will contribute to achieving that aim and will serve as a call to address the issues. [

Applause

.]

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

I congratulate my colleague Shona Robison on bringing this important topic to the chamber, and Mandy Jones, the founder of the empowered women project, on her petition calling on the Advertising Standards Authority to better regulate social media influencers.

Celebrity endorsements are almost as old as advertising itself, but in recent years there has been a worrying rise in the number of celebrities endorsing diet or weight-loss products, particularly online. Those adverts often take the form of a young woman posing with a packet of a so-called “flat-tummy tea”, which usually has not even been opened for the picture. Such adverts are not on the sides of buses or in magazines; instead, they populate the lnstagram feeds of the rich and famous.

Behind the glamorous photos lies an ugly reality: many such products are simply laxatives or diuretics that might cause cramping, stomach pains, diarrhoea and dehydration. Worryingly, the posts offer little or no information about the product’s side effects and main ingredients, the potential harm that could be caused or the science behind how the product is supposed to work. Instead, we see glossy adverts by paid celebrities and influencers who have no expertise or authority in nutrition, medicine or human biology.

Some online celebrities have shared their experiences of predatory companies. One such celebrity, with 230,000 Twitter followers and 178,000 Instagram followers, said:

“I’ve had numerous requests from ‘detox tea’ companies who want me to promote their product. They never stipulate that I need to use the product, they just want me to post a pretty picture and imply that I look good because of their poisonous tea.”

What is particularly galling about the practice is that the wealthy celebrities who promote the products might never have even sampled them, and can thank their personal trainer, nutritionist or plastic surgeon, or Photoshop, for the public physique that their followers hope to emulate.

That false and irresponsible advertising is part of a pervasive and disturbing rhetoric that preys on eating-disordered behaviour and often exploits young, naive and vulnerable consumers who may not understand the health implications of using diet products. Last year, 536 people were treated for an eating disorder in Scotland, and their recovery is threatened by reckless advertising practices. Science tells us that quick-fix weight loss is never the answer and that the risks far outweigh any perceived benefits. As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Doctors are now asking that the unethical advertising practice of celebrity ads for diet aids be banned by social media companies. The ASA now takes complaints against celebrity diet endorsements seriously. A high-profile complaint was recently upheld against “Geordie Shore” personage Sophie Kasaei. In one photograph, she is seen with a bloated belly and a high ponytail; in the next photo, her weight and hair are down. The caption reads:

“Nothings gonna get you flat the same as this tea will. The excuses are in the past, much like the water weight I used to have.”

The ASA investigated two complaints about Kasaei’s post, upholding both as breaching the Committees of Advertising Practice code. The first challenged Kasaei’s claim that the tea could help with water retention, finding that Nomad Choice, the company that sold Flat Tummy Tea, had no scientific data to back it up. The second challenged Flat Tummy Tea’s name, which is not compliant with the EU’s register of nutrition and health claims. Although I am pleased that the advert was subsequently banned and that the ASA took action, it only happened seven months after its first appearance on the home pages of Kasaei’s 1.9 million online followers. The damage had already been done.

Indeed, although such complaints create headlines, it is important to remember that only the UK is under the ASA’s jurisdiction, while our mobile phones give us access to global content. It is therefore incumbent on platforms such as lnstagram, Twitter and Facebook to police the kind of paid promotion that is permitted on their apps. In the terms of use, Instagram users are asked to agree to foster

“a positive, inclusive, and safe environment.”

The promotion of potentially dangerous diet products quite clearly flies in the face of that, and Instagram must do more to protect its users. One would also hope that celebrities would consider the potential impact on impressionable people before accepting payment for such endorsements.

I am pleased by the UK Government’s plans to create a new independent regulator to enforce a duty of care for social media platforms, with far-reaching powers requiring firms to take down illegal or harmful material under new legally binding codes. I again thank Shona Robison and hope that the issues raised in her motion are incorporated into those plans in order to diminish the disingenuous and dangerous marketing of harmful diet products. [

Applause

.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I note the applause from the gallery. I understand why people might do it, but we do not permit the public to applaud during a debate.

Photo of Annie Wells Annie Wells Conservative

I am really thankful to Shona Robison for securing this important debate, and I, too, thank Mandy Jones, the founder of the empowered woman project, for submitting her petition.

Of course, it is not just women who are affected by this, but speaking as a woman, I am only too aware of the pressures that we face to look a certain way. In the past, I have succumbed to diet products that promised me the world but left me disappointed, and I am sure that I am not the only person in this place to have bought meal replacement milkshakes and celebrity fitness videos.

However, I see the hidden pressures that are faced by young people, and the peer-led advertisements on social media with which teenagers are continually being bombarded and which are more discreet than traditional television advertising. Sometimes they are for products that encourage rapid weight loss and which, as a result, potentially create unrealistic body expectations and low self-esteem. It is absolutely right that we tackle this issue together and call out a practice that has hidden dangers for the mental health of an entire generation of women.

As much as I like to think of myself as being young, I am not the target market for these celebrity endorsements. I do not watch much reality TV, I do not really use Instagram and I have reached an age at which I am cynical enough to recognise false promises. However, the scary thing is that this sort of advertising is very much targeted at young people and predominantly young women. The difference between now and 20—or even 10—years ago is the existence of the smartphone, which, as we know, is increasingly coming under fire for the impact that it can have on people’s mental health. Instead of the odd TV advert catching people’s attention, peer-led or sponsored advertising is constantly bombarding young people and adults via social media. If we bear in mind how often we are on our phones these days, it is hardly surprising that this has become a lucrative business.

According to the experts, diet supplements pose a risk to health. Detox teas and weight-loss coffees are among the products that in recent years have surged in popularity due to celebrity endorsements. However, the same products are often not endorsed by official bodies, so we cannot say what has or has not been medically approved. As we have heard, some products have come under fire for not clearly advertising that they contain laxatives, and even those that do not contain laxatives often contain diuretics that can cause dehydration, diarrhoea and fluid loss followed by fluid regain. Often they are sold on the basis that they should be taken continually over a certain period of time, but without much guidance on what people should be eating.

Such products are sold by celebrities who are approached by companies because of their popularity and following on social media. What makes that all the more concerning is that the companies wish to benefit from the relationship between celebrity and fan—a relationship that is based on trust and adoration.

I admit that, until I started writing my speech for the debate, I had not heard of most of the products that have been referred to. To get a better understanding, I asked a young member of my team to show me some of the celebrity accounts that push such products, and I was shocked by how image focused the posts are and how difficult it would be for most people to obtain a similar physique. More to the point, I can understand how, when bombarded by such images, those who are exposed forget that it is possible to be a healthy weight without looking like their favourite celebrity. Such images risk making unrealistic body expectations the norm, and those expectations negatively affect people’s self-esteem. No one wants that to happen, particularly when it can have a long-term impact on people’s lives.

I again thank Mandy Jones for her hard work on the campaign. As so many children and young people are affected by mental health issues, it makes absolutely no sense for images and products that we know to be potentially harmful to be promoted simply to line the pockets of a few individuals. I believe that social media companies and celebrities have a greater role to play, and I hope that the debate will spark a wider discussion on this important topic.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

I thank Shona Robison for securing this important debate and I pay tribute to Mandy Jones for highlighting the issue, which is important. I hope that, by the end of the debate, more people will have signed Mandy’s petition.

Social media can be a positive platform and, used responsibly, it can change society for the better. Personally, I find social media to be a useful tool to promote campaigns, such as those spreading period positive messages, and to bring together wonderful campaigners. However, there is a very ugly side of social media that involves people spreading hate speech and the trolls who viciously target others, often with little action from Twitter or Facebook, which in my experience do not often reply even to politicians.

Young social media users are exposed to the good and the bad. Young people such as my 12-year-old daughter now have greater access than ever to the celebrities who they admire. Young people look up to their heroes and want to be a little bit like them. They follow make-up tutorials and fashion trends, and they buy perfumes, make-up and clothing branded with their favourite celebrity’s name and image. However, shockingly, those everyday product endorsements have, as we have heard, become something far more sinister, especially through social media. Weight-loss products are being marketed to our young people in a damaging and entirely unethical way. Celebrities and influencers are endorsing diet and detox products that they know little about and exploiting young people’s trust while reaping the financial rewards.

As well as the fact that the products are untried and untested by the celebrity endorsers, the claims about the results that they bring are completely misleading. Maintaining a healthy weight is important and, for most of us, it can be achieved by a good diet and exercise. However, these products falsely promise a quick fix. As Shona Robison explained, before and after photographs are often taken on the same day, but with slightly different lighting, so they are entirely fake. Young people are parting with their pocket money or hard-earned cash for nothing more than magic beans.

Like other members, I am extremely concerned about the potential harm to health. Ingredients have been found to be toxic and, tragically, people have died after taking diet pills. Just last month, Scotland’s food watchdog issued a warning about the deadly substance known as DNP, which is found in some diet pills and which has caused 26 people to die since 2007. Huge harm is also done by encouraging disordered eating. We know that eating disorders can be fatal, and the charity Beat has said that anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. Anorexia is experienced by more women than men, which is unsurprising when we are surrounded by damaging portrayals about how women should look.

It is important to stress that many celebrities use their status to inspire and empower others. For example, Jameela Jamil has used her celebrity platform to call out celebrity diet pill endorsements. I agree with her when she describes those celebrities as

“double agents for the patriarchy”.

These predatory adverts are saying to young people, “You’re not good enough as you are, but take this pill and you will be.” That exacerbates people’s insecurities. Is it any wonder that people are tempted to take diet pills that promise a quick fix when they come recommended by trusted idols?

I pay tribute to all campaigners who use their platforms for good by spreading body-positive images and messages and seeking to ban predatory celebrity endorsements. Shona Robison is correct to say that the ASA should be more proactive and social media firms should stop advertising potentially harmful products.

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

Like other members, I express my appreciation for and gratitude to Shona Robison for securing this evening’s important debate, which exposes the unhealthy impacts and risks of celebrity-endorsed diet products.

I also thank the project in Dundee that Ms Robison mentioned, Wellbeing Works, and welcome our guests to the public gallery. I appreciate the work of Mandy Jones, from the empowered women project, in launching the significant “Let’s stop” petition on change.org.

Like Monica Lennon, I have been struck by the positive action of some celebrities, such as the actress Jameela Jamil, who has called out what is a scary rise in celebrity endorsements of quick-fix diets and detox programmes and she has called on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat to ban such adverts. I think that all members who are in the chamber tonight support that call. Jameela Jamil’s testimony is important, because she experienced anorexia as a teenager. She talks about how she was influenced by celebrities as role models when she was growing up.

In the few minutes that I have to speak in the debate, I will succeed, I suppose, in sounding either very old or just like my mother, but the great thing about being in my 40s—and I am well into my 40s—is that I have learned to dump certain concerns. I stopped caring a long time ago about things like varicose veins, cellulite and the size of my—how can I put it in parliamentary language?—derrière, simply on the basis that I do not need to look at what is behind me.

My mother always said that being the perfect 10 would not make me happier, and she was absolutely right. As I look back on all my adult life, I can see that if I had been a size 10 as opposed to a size 14, absolutely nothing would have changed; there is nothing in my life that makes me happy now that would be affected in any shape or form by that.

Being the ideal weight or body shape changes absolutely nothing. However, unhealthy weight loss and obsession with body shape and size can—and do—have massive consequences for people of all ages, particularly young people.

Professor Stephen Powis, along with many other experts, has spoken about the risks of quick-fix weight loss and how they always outweigh the benefits. We heard from Kenny Gibson about various side effects.

I am sure that all members agree that we have a responsibility to protect young people’s mental health. Celebrities on social media must not stoke body image anxiety among young girls—and boys; all our young people face unprecedented pressures.

It is difficult to impart to young people the resilience that comes with age and experience without sounding old, patronising or out of touch, but I have been genuinely shocked by some of the images on social media that I have seen. It is easy for someone like me, who is well into their 40s, to be flippant and to laugh about the fact that all the cabbage soup and detox tea in the world could never result in any part of my anatomy defying gravity. However, members will know that I am thinking about Kim Kardashian, et cetera.

Like other members, I want social media outlets and advertising agencies to take further action to protect our young people. There are many parallels with the action that has been taken on cigarette and alcohol advertising and the work that the Government is doing to consider regulations relating to other cosmetic products.

The biggest thing that we can do for our young people is to support them to have critical minds and to be critical about the adult world around us. We need to nurture our young people to know their own minds and to be strong and resilient enough to make their own informed choices and to lead their own lives.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I reassure Ms Constance and Ms Wells that nobody is old while I am in the chair; I can give you 30 years.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

Angela Constance should not worry about having to say that she is in her late 40s; I wish I was able to say that.

I, too, thank Shona Robison for bringing the debate to the chamber and giving us the opportunity to highlight what is becoming a growing health problem.

In just about any circumstance—crash dieting or the use of so-called weight loss products, for example—rapid weight loss is unhealthy and inherently dangerous. Furthermore, such an approach to weight loss is destined to fail. The human body is not designed to fast; when it is starved of nutrients, it will begin to consume itself. That can cause lasting damage to internal organs. It also slows down the metabolism, which means that the body will function on fewer calories, which will necessitate even less food consumption to maintain body weight. In other words, it is an unsustainable way to lose weight. I will not apologise for being quite so graphic, because that is the reality of what we are discussing.

I have said many times in the chamber that we need to change the conversation. We need to stop talking about fat and thin, about active and inactive, and about food that is good for us and food that is bad for us. No wonder there is so much confusion out there among our youth. We need to start talking about maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle, and we need to take that conversation into schools for children at the youngest possible age.

The use of celebrity endorsements is not new, of course, but celebrities need to have a certain degree of responsibility, as has been said. I totally understand that people are making a living while they can, but endorsements such as those for magic weight-loss pills are simply dangerous, as I have already mentioned, and celebrities who associate themselves with and endorse such products will damage their reputation in the end.

The solution is multifaceted. We not only need to highlight and call out the practices that are highlighted in Shona Robison’s motion; a sustained campaign on what a healthy, active lifestyle looks like is crucial to the success of Mandy Jones’s petition. We should shout louder than them—I know that some MSPs are particularly good at that. Governments are probably the only organisations that are positioned to counter such marketing strategies and that have the budgets to do so.

We should start to use positive role models. In my experience, sportsmen and women are much more careful about what they associate themselves with and are much more cognisant of the impact of the products that they endorse. We need look no further than our own back door for great candidates: athletes such as Laura Muir, Lynsey Sharp and Elish McColgan; the Scottish women’s football team captain, Rachel Corsie; and the Scotland rugby captain, Lisa Thomson, for example. Surely it is within the competence of the Parliament to run our own positive campaign against those bad practices, using such women as role models. As I have said, it is about changing the conversation.

Another consideration is managing expectations. I was once asked if I could write a training programme that would give the recipient abs like Jessica Ennis’s. Of course, it is entirely possible to have them—as long as the person has six hours a day to train.

That is the crux of what we are saying. The unrealistic expectations that bombard our youngsters through all media channels are driving behaviour that endangers the health of those who search for the magic bullet. We need to be able to tell them that the solution that they are looking for lies in a normal active, healthy lifestyle. We also need to ensure that there is access to that opportunity—but that is a debate for another time.

In conclusion, we need to change the conversation. If a person wants cake, they can have it, but they should make sure that it is not their staple diet.

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

I begin by thanking Shona Robison for lodging the motion. I also want to congratulate Mandy Jones, who launched the petition, and welcome her to the Parliament.

I am fairly certain that this is the first time that this topic has been brought to the chamber. However, what we have heard today clearly shows that it is a serious emerging issue that merits our full attention. I will talk about what we are doing in Scotland, but we should not forget that this matters to people worldwide. The ubiquity of social media, and its effects on body image, should be of universal concern.

I agree with Shona Robison that we all need to start thinking carefully about the impact that celebrity endorsement of dietary supplements can have on our physical and mental health. I will use some of my time to speak about that broader picture.

First, it is worth focusing on the consequences for mental health of this type of advertising, and the connections between it and negative body image. They are closely interrelated. There is good evidence that body image concerns are associated with poorer mental wellbeing among children and adolescents. Across the UK, young people who describe themselves as being “relatively unhappy” with their appearance report higher levels of behavioural and emotional difficulties than those who are “relatively happy” with their appearance. Similarly, adolescents who describe themselves as being “too fat” report lower mental wellbeing than those who describe themselves as being “about the right size”. We also know that adolescent girls in Scotland tend to have a poorer perception of how they look than boys do, and that gap is widening. The 2014 health behaviours in school-aged children survey found that, at all ages, girls are more likely than boys to report that they are “too fat”, and are less likely to think that they are good looking. Those numbers are hugely concerning.

There is an overarching point about stigma. Young people tell us that there are all sorts of barriers that prevent them from talking openly about their mental health, and seeking help when they need it. One of those many reasons is the pressure on young people that unrealistic images can create, particularly when presented on social media. That, in turn, risks the normalisation of unhealthy behaviours.

We should not be in any doubt about how normalised dietary supplements have become. The issue is not just how they are marketed, particularly through social media. It is also to do with the fact that they are sold widely, including on the high street. We should also be in no doubt that they are potentially unhealthy—I use that term in the broadest possible sense.

As we have heard, celebrities and many others have promoted a variety of dietary products through their various social media channels. Those promotions can reach literally tens of millions of people in real time. The demographics of platforms such as Instagram mean that, very often, those are young people.

The products in question are carefully and deliberately marketed as a lifestyle choice, and are often sold in packs containing weekly or monthly supplies. They are clearly designed to encourage people to take them every day; they are self-evidently not one-off supplements. They are also unregulated, with their full effects often disguised, or undisclosed entirely.

These products promise quick and easy weight loss and associated health benefits. At best, they are misleading; at worst, they can be actively dangerous. The fact that they are casually promoted through platforms such as Instagram or Twitter, as if just part of the normal browsing experience, is deeply troubling.

Just last month, we had eating disorders awareness week. What we have heard today is part of that story. This is ultimately about the relentless pressure that society exerts on people, and particularly young women, to conform to an expectation of perfection. More and more young people tell us that body image, and dissatisfaction with their appearance, harms their mental wellbeing. Seeing celebrities who have tens of millions of followers on social media promoting appetite-suppressing products is a significant contributing factor to that harm.

I want to mention three specific pieces of work that the Government will be taking forward in response to some of these issues. First, we will publish an analytical research report over the coming weeks that will explore the reported worsening of mental wellbeing among young women in Scotland. Body image and social media are two of the key themes of that report, which I hope will also address the relevant recommendations that are contained in the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee’s “Report on children and young people's mental health”, which was published earlier this month.

Secondly, I announced in February that we will produce Scotland-specific advice on the healthy use of social media. That advice will be co-produced by young people for young people, and I intend for it to be world leading. I am happy to commit today that this topic will be included in the advice. In particular, I want to ensure that young people are properly informed about how social media can promote unrealistic expectations, and how they can avoid that trap.

Thirdly, we will continue our direct conversations with young people on what matters to them with regard to mental health. Members might be aware of our feels FM campaign—in partnership with the see me programme—which used the power of music to encourage young people to talk about how they are feeling. Thousands of young people took part and the details of what they told us will be published over the coming months. I am determined that an on-going dialogue with young people will be at the heart of how we develop our policy on mental health, and body image is an issue that young people frequently raise as a concern.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

I am sure that, like me, the minister welcomes the steps that Shona Robison outlined and the work that Alison Thewliss is doing to take these issues up with the

Advertising Standards Authority directly. Can the minister outline any steps that this Government is taking to raise these matters directly with the UK Government, the ASA and the social media companies that we have all talked about tonight?

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

As Monica Lennon is aware, internet safety regulation remains a reserved issue and any decisions on regulation and legislation are currently made by the UK Government. However, we work with partners to encourage safe and responsible use of the internet. We actively engage with the UK Government on the development of its internet safety strategies and are engaging with it on its white paper on online harms, and we will engage with it on any subsequent regulation or legislation that comes out of that. As I said at the start of my speech, it is important that we do not see this as a Scotland-only issue; this is a worldwide problem.

When I have been out and about in my Rutherglen constituency, I have heard personally many times about the concerns that young people have about the effect that social media has on them. Pupils at my local schools are fearless in talking about the topic—they say that it matters to them. We must ensure that young people are able to talk with the Government directly so that we can act on what we hear and provide the advice and support that young people feel that they need.

All the speakers this evening have made interesting contributions. It was encouraging to hear so much consensus from Kenneth Gibson, Annie Wells, Monica Lennon, Angela Constance and Brian Whittle on the importance of the issue, and on how a cross-party approach will help us to ensure that young people get the voice that they need in developing policy across the UK.

In closing, I note that the theme of the forthcoming mental health awareness week 2019 is “Body Image—how we think and feel about our bodies.” I warmly welcome that and I understand that the Mental Health Foundation will publish a research report during the week, which will make specific recommendations. The Government will consider those very carefully and I hope that the report will take the opportunity to address the issues that were raised this evening.

I thank all members who contributed to the debate and, again, pay tribute to my colleague Shona Robison for bringing the issue to the chamber this evening.

Meeting closed at 17:53.