The SNP claim that making it illegal to show advertisements for foods with high fat, sugar or salt content before the 9pm sex and violence watershed will protect the health of children and reduce obesity.
Public health minister Michael Matheson has written to the UK government calling for the introduction of such a ban, which would affect adverts for fast-food chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC.
However, Matheson has specified that the ban should be for “food” classified as so-called HFSS (high in fat, sugar and salt), potentially leaving the door open for drinks adverts to be shown before the watershed. Last night a Scottish Government spokesman emphasised that Matheson’s request was confined to food, but added that ministers would not rule out including sugary soft drinks.
Matheson has written to the Westminster Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, to ask whether he would support a move to introduce a ban across the UK.
The approach to London follows recent research from Newcastle University which suggests children are still being exposed to the same levels of advertising for such foods, despite Ofcom banning these commercials during programmes aimed at youngsters.
Matheson said: “Broadcast advertising influences the choices made by children and can shape their attitudes to food as they grow into adulthood. Tackling obesity and encouraging people to make healthier life choices is one of the most important things we can do to improve the health of our nation.”
The ban has been backed by health charities, but the SNP’s move was met with cynicism from Labour.
Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “At a time when we have lost 2,000 nurses, our hospitals are crumbling and we don’t have enough blankets for elderly patients, I am amazed that the SNP government is picking a fight with the UK government about what time we can show McDonald’s adverts on television.”