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Nesta responds to Scotland's national Good Food Nation Plan and regulations on promotion

In Scotland, over 67% of adults live with excess weight. Obesity is now the leading cause of death linked to 23% of all deaths and contributing to chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Inequality is key too with levels of obesity among the most deprived in Scotland higher than the least deprived.

The health costs of obesity are severe. But the economic costs of obesity are also felt across society in terms of productivity loss and increased health and social care costs. It is an urgent issue and one that unfairly impacts individuals’ quality of life and opportunities.

Building a good food nation

We know that our food environments play a key role in determining what we eat, and why. So we have welcomed two Scottish Government consultations on policy approaches that could – if implemented robustly and urgently – make a significant difference to Scotland’s food environment, empowering all of us to make healthier choices. 

The national Good Food Nation Plan outlines six overarching outcomes for Scotland to meet, accompanied by targets and indicators that will track progress. The plan describes a ‘Good Food Nation’ as one where people from every walk of life take pride and pleasure in, and benefit from, the food they produce, buy, cook, serve and eat each day. Being able to benefit from good quality, healthy, affordable and sustainable food is a fundamental component of improving Scotland’s health.

In our response, we urged the Scottish Government to strengthen how they will measure progress towards achieving these outcomes, particularly when looking at tackling health inequalities. For example, we’ve urged the Scottish Government to include an indicator that measures how rates of obesity and overweight for different population groups are increasing or decreasing (eg, socioeconomic background, race, disability etc). This would ensure that policies introduced to deal with food access would be measured against their impact on inequalities. 

We also emphasise the need for careful use of language in the plan to avoid leaning towards a narrative of individual responsibility. This ensures the plan focuses on building food environments that make healthy food options available, accessible and affordable.

Strengthening regulation on food promotions

More recently, the Scottish Government consulted on regulations to restrict promotions on food that is high in fat, sugar or salt, which would encourage a shift in the amount of less healthy food we buy in favour of healthier food. Action on promotions has been a key commitment since 2018 in the Diet & Healthy Weight Delivery Plan. These regulations provide an important opportunity to not only match the current legislation in England, but to go further.

To further strengthen the regulations, we suggest in our response that the Scottish Government: 

  • remove the exemption of ‘non-prepackaged products’ from the scope of the legislation to further increase the impact of the regulations
  • regulate meal deals to remove targeted HFSS discretionary food, including temporary price reductions within the scope of the regulations
  • clarify the definitions of locations both online and in-person to prevent loopholes which could undermine the efficacy of the regulations
  • include small and micro businesses within the scope of these regulations in respect of the contribution they make to Scotland’s diet.  

Nesta has estimated that the impact of policies contained in the proposed regulations - if strengthened by our recommendations and implemented successfully - could result in a notable reduction in obesity [1]. This is a significant opportunity for the people of Scotland and the Scottish Government should move forward without delay. 

[1] This research by Nesta is due to be published on Wednesday 25 September. The reduction in obesity was observed five years after the policy was implemented. Numbers are specific to Scotland and for adults over the age of 18 years.


Ashley Mclean

Ashley Mclean

Ashley Mclean

Policy Advisor, Nesta Scotland

Ashley works as a policy advisor across the missions and the UK 2040 Options team in Nesta in Scotland, ensuring we engage with the Scottish government to meet our goals.

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Frances Bain

Frances Bain

Frances Bain

Mission Manager (Scotland), healthy life mission

Frances is Nesta’s mission manager for Scotland working on the healthy life mission and based with the Scotland team in Edinburgh.

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