Announced today by Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell, proposals include measures to restrict promotions and advertising of junk food, something Cancer Research UK and other obesity campaigners have been calling for.
The strategy follows the recent Scottish Healthy Survey which showed the majority of Scots are overweight or obese, leading to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Average BMI is its heaviest since 2005.
Campbell said the plans could compare to previous ambitions around tobacco and alcohol, which saw restrictions on promotions in shops and pricing.
“Obesity significantly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cancer cardiovascular disease and depression,” she said.
“Simply put, it’s harming the people of Scotland. It also puts pressure on the NHS, other public services and our economy.
“That is why we need commitment and action from everyone across all sectors and at all levels including government, citizens, the public sector and businesses right across the country.”
Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager in Scotland, said: “It’s great to see a range of bold proposals in the Government’s obesity consultation.
“In tackling multi-buy offers on junk food, regulation will be crucial. Multi-buy offers on alcohol are already regulated in Scotland and the same thing must be done for junk food.”
Chair of BMA Scotland Dr Peter Bennie said: “Almost every doctor working in the NHS today will be dealing with patients who are overweight or obese.”
He added: “The scale of the challenge facing Scotland means that we need bold and comprehensive action across every part of society in Scotland if we are to successfully reduce levels of overweight and obesity in future years. Failing to do this will only add to the already significant cost pressures facing the health service in future years.”
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s Officer for Scotland, Professor Steve Turner, said he would be recommending the addition of weight-reduction targets.
“This comprehensive set of proposals would go a long way towards tackling Scotland’s obesity epidemic,” he said.
“We know that the seeds for a lifetime of unhealthy weight are sown at an early age and we also know what’s driving this.”
Obesity Action Scotland, a clinician-led campaign, said the consultation was taking on a “serious public health threat”.
The group’s Lorraine Tulloch said: “We are delighted to welcome and support this document. It puts transforming our food environment at the heart of the drive to improve our nation’s diet.
“The Government has outlined the bold action they propose to take including legislative action on price promotions, tackling advertising, improving the choices we have when we eat out and improving food and drink labelling.”
However, the Federation of Small Businesses warned about the impact on the high street.
Scottish policy convenor Andy Willox said: “Before putting this plan into action, ministers must understand the impact their proposals could have on every local fishmonger, takeaway, deli, corner-shop and baker. At a time when both the economy and the high street are on a knife edge, Scotland needs to ask whether these reforms are a sensible course of action.”
The ideas are open to public consultation until January.