SCOTLAND’S national chef has potentially set himself on a collision course with the Scottish Government with a warning that health measures which drive up food prices risk “punishing the poor”.

Gary Maclean, the Masterchef winner who was appointed to promote healthy and affordable food by the Scottish Government, said taxes or restrictions on fat and sugar will drive up prices but won’t necessarily lead to lifestyle changes.

The UK Government will levy a tax on sugary drinks from April, but there have been calls to go further and tax chocolate and sweets as well.

READ MORE: National chef Gary Maclean: How to change Scotland's terrible diet

A Scottish Government consultation on diet, activity, and healthy weight closes this week.

It recommends a restriction on promotional deals on foods high in fat, sugar and salt, such as multibuys, two for one deals or temporary discounts.

But Mr McLean said he is not keen on the idea of forcing manufacturers to cut the fat and sugar in their food.


“The reality is it then pushes the price up,” he said in an interview with The Herald.

He added: “I think there’s a lot more we need to do before we start taxing food – the risk is that we start punishing the poor.

“It could be an extra £3 a week and for some people that’s a lot of money, but they are still going to spend it because they can’t change their life based on £3.”

However, an influential academic has said a decade of soft measures has failed to tackle Scotland’s obesity crisis and suggested it is now time for the “stick, not just the carrot”.

READ MORE: National chef Gary Maclean: How to change Scotland's terrible diet

Linda Bauld, a professor of health policy at Stirling University who regularly advises governments on health policy, said multibuy restrictions must be imposed and junk food advertising banned on television before the 9pm watershed.

HeraldScotland: Professor Linda Bauld

“Despite some action from the government, rates of overweight and obesity in Scotland have not decreased in a decade,” she said.

“Two-thirds of adults and over one-quarter of children in Scotland are overweight or obese yet only a quarter of Scottish adults are aware that being overweight could cause cancer. I believe that legislation is the only way forward and ministers must act now.”

Ms Bauld’s recommendations form the basis of a submission by Cancer Research UK to the Scottish Government consultation.

Over a fifth (22.9 per cent) of primary one pupils are at risk of obesity, a rise of 0.8 per cent in 12 months, and almost a two per cent increase since the SNP came to power in 2007, official statistics show.

READ MORE: National chef Gary Maclean: How to change Scotland's terrible diet

In 2016, 65 per cent of adults aged 16 and over were overweight, including 29 per cent who were obese, up from 62 per cent and 25 per cent respectively in 2003.

Scotland’s levels of overweight and obesity are the worst in the UK and among the worst in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

HeraldScotland: nicola sturgeon conference pa.jpg

Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland must show “the same ambition on the growing public health challenge of obesity as the ambition that we have shown on alcohol misuse and smoking”.

The Scottish Government consultation states: “The Scottish Government is minded to act to restrict price promotion on food and drink products which are high in fat, salt and sugar. This could include multi-buy, X for Y (and) temporary price promotions.”

The Labour-Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive introduced a ban on smoking in public premises, and ban on multi-buys and “happy hours” in pubs.

READ MORE: National chef Gary Maclean: How to change Scotland's terrible diet

The SNP government went further with a ban on alcohol multi-buys in supermarkets, and will shortly introduce alcohol minimum unit pricing following a protracted legal challenge by the drinks industry.