Programme for Government (Tobacco, Alcohol and Unhealthy Food and Drinks Consumption)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd November 2021.

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Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

1. To ask the Scottish Government what progress it has made on the commitments in its programme for government to tackle the consumption of tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food and drinks. (S6O-00303)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

We are committed to taking bold population-wide approaches to reduce the significant harms of tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food and drinks, which is why we will introduce a public health bill during this parliamentary session. We are in the process of developing an updated tobacco action plan to reduce smoking rates to 5 per cent or under by 2034. We are also driving forward our alcohol framework, which contains 20 actions to reduce alcohol-related harms and embed the World Health Organization’s focus on tackling the affordability, availability and attractiveness of alcohol.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

A healthy diet from an early age is a major contributor to tackling inequality and the stubborn attainment gap, as, I am sure, the cabinet secretary would agree. Given that there is such a disparity across the country in food provision in our schools, and with so much of the public procurement purse going to importing inferior foods—despite the high quality of food produced by our farmers—does the cabinet secretary agree that it is time that the Scottish Government’s public procurement policy ensures that, wherever possible, produce available through the central Scotland Excel contract is high-quality home-grown food? That would be to the betterment of our children’s health and wellbeing.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I certainly agree with much of what Brian Whittle said and with the importance of not just the availability of healthy food but its price relative to that of unhealthy food. I am more than happy to have these conversations with my colleagues in Government, particularly Ivan McKee, who leads on many of these matters.

I am sure that when we introduce the public health bill, which of course is a programme for government commitment, we will engage widely with colleagues across the chamber, and I am sure that Brian Whittle will want to be part of those conversations. I am happy to take away the constructive suggestions that he makes.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We have a supplementary from Carol Mochan, who joins us remotely.

Photo of Carol Mochan Carol Mochan Labour

The Scottish Government has committed to halving childhood obesity by 2030. Can the cabinet secretary outline what steps the Government is taking to make community sport more inclusive, accessible and affordable for families who cannot afford the expensive cost of participating in sport, to ensure that sport plays its rightful role in meeting the targets that the Government has set out?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I thank Carol Mochan for that important contribution. In relation to some of the commitments in the PFG to help get us towards that target of halving childhood obesity by 2030, we have made available £650,000 to help health boards and local partners support services that encourage and reinforce good nutrition, healthy eating habits and, importantly, physical activity for children under five and their families. That goes back to Brian Whittle’s point about early intervention. Some of that funding goes towards physical activity for children under five.

I will write to Ms Mochan with further detail of what we are doing to make sport as inclusive as possible, particularly for those who may find participation difficult because of the financial barriers.

Photo of Gillian Mackay Gillian Mackay Green

According to research conducted by the Alcohol Health Alliance UK in 2020, more than 70 per cent of alcohol labels do not include the low-risk drinking guidelines, despite the industry reaching a voluntary agreement with the UK Government to include them. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government’s research indicates that only 17 per cent of people in Scotland are aware of the chief medical officer’s low-risk drinking guidelines.

People deserve to know what they are consuming and to be aware of the harm—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

May we have the question, please, Ms Mackay?

Photo of Gillian Mackay Gillian Mackay Green

Will the cabinet secretary consider mandating nutrition and health information on alcohol labels, to enable people to make informed choices?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Yes; we are always happy to look at constructive suggestions from members of any party.

We have good four-nations discussions with the other health ministers on such issues. I have had recent discussions with Ed Argar on the Health and Care Bill, which touches on devolved competences. We do not have an agreement on the legislative consent memorandum in relation to the bill, some of which strays into the area that Gillian Mackay raised. I am happy to look at suggestions, including hers.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

I am a strong supporter of alcohol minimum unit pricing. The evidence is pretty clear that it has had a significant impact. However, the value of the 50p rate has been eroded by inflation in recent years. When will the minister increase the minimum unit price beyond 50p?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

As Willie Rennie knows, we keep the matter under regular review. The point that he made is not unreasonable. He will forgive me for not having to hand exactly when the next review is due, but when we have undertaken it, I will write to him about the outcome.