Why is Livingston fast food capital of Scotland?

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The dubious honour of being named the “fast food capital of Scotland” has been lost by Edinburgh – to Livingston.

With one fast food chain for every 3517 of its inhabitants, the West Lothian town has emerged as the fast food chart-topper.

It also has the highest concentration of McDonald’s per capita, with one store for every 18,756 people, compared with Glasgow’s one to 27,115.

Livingston beat nine other major Scottish towns and cities to win the dubious title, which had been awarded to Edinburgh the last time a survey was run in 2013.

This time Aberdeen emerged as the most healthy with just one fast food chain outlet per 8481 people.

Livingston’s 56,269 population is served by three McDonald’s, one Burger King, one KFC, three Subways, four Greggs, one Domino’s and three Costa coffee outlets.

The figures, researched by health website Treated.com, put Glasgow in third place based on fast food outlets per head at one for every 4230.

The city has 141 fast food branches – the largest overall number in any town or city.

And in spite of an impressive 33 Greggs, Edinburgh ranked just seventh on the list.

Cumbernald was also ranked as a surprisingly “healthy” town. Despite having similar population sizes, Cumbernauld came in second-last place with one chain outlet per 6395 of its inhabitants.

The study examined the numbers of seven popular fast food retailers in Scotland’s ten largest towns and cities.

By looking at the number of McDonald’s, Burger Kings, KFCs, Subway, Greggs, Domino’s and Costa outlets in comparison to the population, researchers were able to locate the nation’s fast food hotspots.

Fast food and obesity are major concerns for Scotland’s government. Figures in 2013 showed that almost two-thirds of Scottish adults were overweight, with a staggering 27.1 per cent classed as obese.

Officials have put the official cost of obesity to the Scottish NHS as high as £600m every year.

Earlier this year, a parliamentary report claimed that obesity could be costing the Scottish economy up to £4.6 billion overall.

Tam Fry, a spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said of Livingston’s high number of fast food outlets: “Local councils pleaded for the recent Queen’s Speech to help them curb chain restaurants opening anywhere they please. They wanted legislation to empower them to do so, but to their fury their plea was passed over.

“The outcome is inevitable. They will find it harder to prevent fast food outlets becoming even more of a blight on high streets and targeting the poorest areas of any town, such as Livingston, with junk food.

“Scotland’s obesity problem will only get worse until such regulation is imposed.”

The research concentrated on big-name fast food chains and ignored independently-run chip shops and cafes.

Dr Wayne Osborne, who led the study, warned: “The main attraction of fast food chains is their convenience. They are most often situated on the busy main streets, and for many they are the safe, recognisable bet in train stations and airports.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com