Time for Action on Scottish Diet

26 February 2018

Urgent action is needed to change the change our diet and tackle the price promotions that continue to fill our baskets with unhealthy foods.

In response to today’s reports from Food Standards Scotland, Obesity Action Scotland is calling for the Scottish Government to move forward urgently with its proposals to transform the food environment.  We would urge action to:

  • Introduce legislation to tackle price promotions of unhealthy foods
  • Restrict advertising to children across platforms such as online, billboards, buses, trains, transport hubs, sponsorship of events etc.
  • Regulate to improve portion control and nutritional information available when we eat out

“Our poor diet is driving increased waistlines across the nation.  We must see urgent action from Scottish Government to progress its proposals on legislation to restrict price promotions of unhealthy foods, reduce advertising and improve portion size and nutritional information available when we eat out.  Such measures can help make the healthy choice the easy choice for everyone. We know the majority of the public are in favour of changes to the food environment to make it easier for them to make the healthy choice. Let’s get on and do it” said Lorraine Tulloch, Programme Lead of Obesity Action Scotland. 


Today FSS launch two important reports on the Scottish diet and retail food purchasing patterns in Scotland.   These reports tell us that the Scottish diet continues to be poor and our bad habits are ingrained.

  • Scotland has been consistently missing its dietary goals for the last 17 years[i]i (we eat too much of total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt and not enough fruit and veg, fibre and oily fish)
  • A quarter (24%) of the food Scots purchase is of low nutritional value and not required for health (i.e. confectionery, cakes, biscuits, pastries, crisps, savoury snacks, sugary drinks)i
  • Although there was a decrease in the purchase of regular soft drinks since 2010, there was little indication of reductions in sugar from other categories of food and increases of sugar purchased form confectionery, breakfast spreads, ice-cream, edible ices and dairy dessertsi
  • Households within the 20% most deprived areas consumed more calories from processed products such as confectionery, biscuits, sugary drinks and plain breadi
  • It’s estimated that men in Scotland who drink alcohol consume 1100kcal a week from alcohol, for women it is 810kcal/week[ii]

Our poor diet is driving an epidemic of overweight and obesity in Scotland and we need to see urgent action to change the food environment to allow us to make the healthy choice.

 We also learned today is that:

  • In 2006 36% of calories bought in retail in Scotland was purchased on price promotionsi
  • In 2016 temporary price reductions accounted for 26% of calories bought on promotion and multi-buys for 8% of calories bought on promotioni
  • In 2016 the less healthy foods tended to be more frequently purchased on promotion than the healthier foods (average of 43% vs. an average of 27%) across most retailersi (the exception were discounters where purchase on price promotion was similar between healthier and less healthy categories)
  • Products bought on promotion were on average more expensive than without a price promotioni (this could be because the cheapest value items within a category may be less promoted than branded, luxury or new products)

We continue to fill our baskets with items on promotion at a rate much higher than the rest of Europe and those items are unhealthier items.

The public support for regulation of price promotions has been increasing. Recent consumer tracking survey published by FSS showed that support for banning promotional offers on HFSS foods in Scotland increased from 46% in 2016 to 49% in 2017. Similarly, the recent Scottish Social Attitudes survey[iii] showed that 52% of Scots support a ban on price offers on unhealthy foods and 66% support ban on unhealthy foods next to checkouts.

Surveys show that public is ready for change. YouGov survey published by CRUK in February 2016 reported that 74% of the UK public backed a ban on junk food advertising before the 9pm TV watershed[iv]. A very recent survey[v] showed that majority of Scottish public supports a ban on sugary drinks adverts (56%) and a ban on unhealthy foods adverts (53%).


[i] McDonald A, Milne A, et al. Monitoring retail purchase and price promotions in Scotland (2010 - 2016). . 2018

[ii] Food Standards Scotland. Situation report: The Scottish diet: It needs to change. 2018 update. . 2018.

[iii] NHS Health Scotland (2018) Public attitudes to reducing levels of overweight and obesity in Scotland.

[iv] Cancer Research UK. Public back ban on children’s junk food advertising. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/aboutus/


ga=2.43511525.1920295067.1503332175-1857105653.1452162474. Updated 2016. Accessed 08/23, 2016.

[v] NHS Health Scotland (2018) Public attitudes to reducing levels of overweight and obesity in Scotland.