Scotland’s health is of high importance to me, which is why I am proud my colleagues in the SNP Scottish Government have ensured health spending has increased to a record level under the SNP with Scotland’s health budget rising to a record high of nearly £13 billion this year, which includes a £250 million investment to be directed to Health and Social Care partnerships, to ensure improved outcomes in social care and support integration.
However, although the SNP Scottish Government have worked hard since 2007 to make Scotland healthier more must be done to improve obesity levels. It must be stressed that while we do welcome a sugar drinks tax, it cannot in isolation address the levels of obesity in this country. The impact and implementation of the levy needs to be carefully considered as part of the UK’s consultation on its potential introduction.
The SNP are fully committed to ensuring Scotland becomes a healthier nation and my colleagues in the Scottish Government are taking a range of steps to help people to eat more healthily, including working with the food and drink industry to encourage a step-change in offering healthier choices and promoting healthier recipes. Campaigns such as ‘Eat Better Feel Better’ have been successful in promoting healthy eating, while healthy eating projects have received funding of over £10m in the four years to 2016 to further help with promoting healthy eating in Scotland.
While I do fully appreciate and understand that there are some concerns on this matter, it is extremely important that all possible options are explored to help combat the UK’s and Scotland’s obesity challenges and a sugar drinks levy is one of these options. As I have said, however, the SNP believe that a sugary drinks levy is not the only answer and any decision to implement one across the UK must be carefully considered as part of a much wider and broader strategy.
Finally, the UK Government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy, which was published in August, is unambitious and underwhelming and it needs to go further to tackle one of the biggest health issues that faces society today. You may be interested to note that the SNP Scottish Government are developing their own strategy for Scotland, which focuses on diet and obesity, and will reinforce our action on the promotion of unhealthy foods.