Holyrood

13th June 2008 at 01:00
Never have MSPs on the education committee had their mid-morning snacks so closely scrutinised as last Wednesday, when they were taking evidence from witnesses on new nutritional rules which will end the sale of fizzy drinks and sweets in schools
Never have MSPs on the education committee had their mid-morning snacks so closely scrutinised as last Wednesday, when they were taking evidence from witnesses on new nutritional rules which will end the sale of fizzy drinks and sweets in schools.

Practising what they preach were the Liberal Democrat MSP Jeremy Purvis and Labour's Mary Mulligan, who both had fruit; SNP MSP Aileen Campbell settled for a cup of tea. But in a move that could be seen as daring or foolhardy, Labour's Ken Macintosh opted for a scone and jam. He was promptly told by a witness: "I hope that's a healthy choice."

No one was brave enough to touch the muffins.

Perhaps, however, it is fitting that MSPs show some restraint. School pupils would think so.

On recent school visits, education committee convener Karen Whitefield has been accused of "killing off" tuck shops. And when Mr Macintosh visited schools, he reported, the only thing that pupils wanted to talk about was "the chocolate ban". He was tired of being seen as a "big banner", he moaned. "When I ask children what they want to talk about, they say 'banning chocolates and everything in our school'."

Part of the problem, the committee heard, was that food manufacturers have failed to "step up to the plate" and develop new products that meet the new requirements.

Some treats, however, are still permissible under the new rules, which come into force in August. Dr Cathy Higginson, chair of the former expert working group which drew up the recommendations, told the committee that schools would not be breaking the law if they served up "after careful consideration" cakes, pastries and grilled bacon and sausage rolls.

Scones and pancakes, she continued, were at the "healthier end of the cakes and biscuits range" (good news for Mr Macintosh).

However, should the comments of Len Braid, of the Automatic Vending Association, reach young ears, a full-scale riot may ensue. Mr Braid reported that he did not know of any staffroom vending machines that complied with the healthy options guidance.

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