Diet and nutrition: policy context

General public health policy

The White Paper on health, Towards A Healthier Scotland (Scottish Executive, 1999), identifies 'a healthier diet' as one of the key lifestyle factors to be tackled to improve health and reduce health inequalities. Our national health: A plan for action, a plan for change (Scottish Executive, 2000) also recognises the importance of healthy eating. In 2003, the Scottish Executive published Improving health in Scotland: The challenge, a framework for action to improve health in Scotland, in which low fruit and vegetable intake is one of the five key risk factors for action in the first phase.

Specific diet and nutrition policy: current

In May 2013, the Scottish Government and the Food Standards Agency in Scotland (FSAS) hosted an engagement event with the food industry, setting out draft ideas for supporting healthy choices in Scotland. The final ‘Supporting healthier choices’ proposals will be launched in Spring 2014 and will have a particular focus on children’s health, promotions, helping consumers with better information, and making products and menus healthier.

The Scottish Reformulation Strategies (FSAS) are part of the voluntary proposals to support healthier choices (above). They aim to improve Scotland’s diet through a range of voluntary targets aimed at the food industry and are intended to reduce the amount of calories, sugar and salt readily available in food.  The strategy contains a number of targets set for achievement by 2015.

The Scottish Government has revised the Scottish Dietary Goals upon the recommendation of the FSAS. The goals describe, in nutritional terms, the diet that will improve and support the health of the Scottish population. The revised goals replace the Scottish Dietary Targets which were set in the 1996 Scottish Diet Action Plan Eating for Health: A Diet Action Plan for Scotland.

Specific diet and nutrition policy: origins and antecedents

The extent of Scotland's poor diet and the consequences for health was first highlighted in 1993 when the Scottish Office published the Scottish diet report. This led, in 1994, to the announcement of a series of targets (see table 5) for dietary improvement in Scotland. These targets formed the basis of Eating for Health: A Diet Action Plan for Scotland (Scottish Office, 1996). In 2001, Scotland’s first Food and Health Coordinator was appointed with the priority of making healthy foods more widely available in all parts of the country. This was followed by publication of Eating for health: Meeting the challenge (Scottish Executive, 2004) establishing a multi-agency strategy for implementation of this Scottish diet action plan (SDAP).

Meanwhile, in recognition of the need to be able to measure progress towards the targets, the Scottish Executive Health Department (SEHD) and Food Standards Agency Scotland (FSAS) set up a Working group on monitoring Scottish dietary targets. The Scottish Executive joined with FSAS in 2005 to set up a national healthy living Food and Health Alliance to support the implementation of national food and health policy in Scotland. NHS Health Scotland subsequently joined the collaboration and coordinated a Review of the Scottish Diet Action Plan which was published in September 2006. This coincided with the publication of a review of food consumption and nutrient intakes from national surveys in Scotland.

In June 2008 the Scottish Government published the Healthy Eating, Active Living: Action Plan (2008-2011), which outlined a number of healthy living initiatives targeting various population groups in order to improve diet and levels of physical activity in Scotland. This was followed by the publication of Recipe for success, Scotland's first national food and drink policy in 2009, aimed at promoting sustainable economic growth by ensuring that the Scottish Government's focus in relation to food and drink, and in particular their work with Scotland's food and drink industry, addresses quality, health and wellbeing, and environmental sustainability, recognising the need for access and affordability at the same time.

In February 2010, the Scottish Government and COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) published Preventing overweight and obesity in Scotland: A route map towards healthy weight. This 'obesity strategy' unveils ambitious plans to work across every area of government to make healthy choices easier for Scotland's population and sets out a range of preventative actions primarily targeted at decision makers in central and local government.

School meals and nutrition for children

There has been an enormous amount of work on school meals in Scotland since 2003, which started with Hungry for success. In January 2006 the Scottish Executive published Nutritional guidance for early years. The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 and the Nutritional requirements for food and drink in schools (Scotland) regulations 2008 built on the earlier achievements of Hungry for success by setting standards for all food and drink in schools. Other initiatives include free school lunches, fruit and breakfast initiatives.

In 2014, the Scottish Government published Better Eating, Better Learning - a new context for school food. This refreshed guidance is intended to support schools, local authorities, caterers, procurement departments,parents, children and young people to work in partnership to make further improvements in school food and food education.

Maternal and infant nutrition

In January 2011, the Scottish Government published the Improving Maternal and Infant Nutrition: A Framework for Action which is aimed at a wide variety of organisations with a role in improving maternal and infant nutrition in Scotland.