THE Scottish Government’s chief health adviser has criticised primary schools for handing out shortbread and Irn-Bru during Burns Week.   

She said that Scots have “normalised” poor dietary choices and that this is contributing to the overall health of the nation.

Linda Bauld said giving children drinks and snacks filled with sugar would “undermine their chances of having a healthy diet” in later life.

Appearing on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Bauld was asked about an unnamed primary school in Glasgow which had written to parents asking for permission to give shortbread and Irn-Bru to pupils as part of Burns Week.

Bauld said: “That is a problem. That kind of message to parents is a problem. Now people will see me saying that and think ‘Oh, Nanny wave the finger, we’ve been eating shortbread for hundreds of years and it never did us any harm’.

“Well, actually, it does. And the problem is we’ve normalised it. As an occasional treat, absolutely fine. But you know, it’s the old adage that you can’t outrun a bad diet.

“Kids are active and moving around, but what we’re giving them and what we’ve normalised as their diet is incredibly high in salt, sugar and fat, and fizzy drinks in particular, we don’t need those in our diet.”

Bauld added that there was “no nutritional value” in giving out food and drink which was high in sugar content.

“There’s lots of ways to celebrate the life of Robert Burns and remember him in a national celebration that’s not about fizzy drinks.”

The latest data from Public Health Scotland (PHS) estimates that Scots are roughly 40% more likely to die from a stroke than the rest of the UK, despite the overall incidence rate for stroke in Scotland decreasing by 2.4% since 2012/13.

In 2020, 3927 Scots lost their lives due to a stroke, compared with 34,518 throughout the whole of the UK.

Bauld Warned that Scotland is already “paying for the health crisis”.

Per 100,000 Scots, there were 72 stroke deaths in comparison with just 51.2 per 100,000 across the rest of the UK.

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She explained: “We’re paying for it in our health care costs. And we’re paying for it as we see now in the media every day, in the hundreds of 1000s of people who are no longer in employment because they’re in poor health.

“So it’s costing our economy as well as costing lives. And if we don’t try and shift that balance – and it’s not something that is going to happen quickly – then we are going to have a more unsustainable healthcare system that we can’t afford, all the difficult conversations people are having about that, and we will struggle to pay for the public services that we all deserve.”