The publication of the Scottish government’s framework for supporting healthy choices last week illustrates the different approach to many food issues emerging north of the border.

The Scottish plan goes further than what’s being proposed in England. Retailers and caterers, for example, are being asked to remove confectionery from tills, and caterers are being asked to improve children’s menus and incentivise healthy lunchtime menu deals for schoolchildren.

Supermarkets are also being challenged to rebalance their price promotions to support dietary goals. None of these feature in the Responsibility Deal pledges for England.

There is also a stark difference in relation to action called for on fat, sugar and calorie reductions. Unlike the Responsibility Deal’s broad brush calorie reduction pledge, the Scottish version doesn’t leave it open to companies to decide what changes are appropriate. Targets are set out for the reformulation of foods that are major contributors to the diet, including products like soft drinks, biscuits and cakes.

” The same targeted approach should be adopted in England”

Obesity and diet-related disease may be slightly higher in Scotland but more than 60% of the population in England is now overweight or obese. Which? wants the same targeted type of approach that’s being adopted in Scotland mirrored in England.

Responsible food marketing is also on the agenda in Scotland. Again this has yet to be addressed by the English Responsibility Deal. It is on the list to be looked at, but the Deal’s issue-by-issue approach means it could be a long time before a pledge is agreed. Even then it remains to be seen if companies will agree to any meaningful change.

The level of control over marketing of unhealthy foods to children was hotly debated a few years ago. Despite TV advertising restrictions coming into effect UK-wide and some changes being made to the UK code of non-broadcast advertising (CAP), gaps still remain. This is particularly the case for advertising to older children. Restrictions also don’t apply to some types of marketing such as sponsorship and packaging promotions, and responsible price promotions are also not receiving attention.

A new initiative between the Scottish government and the BSI aims to try to tackle marketing practices and could ultimately lead to a new British Standard.

While the Responsibility Deal in England and the Scottish plans are voluntary, the difference between the two is that the Scottish government is setting the direction and making it clear what action is expected. We hope these new proposals help to shake up the Responsibility Deal and lead to greater ambition in England too.

Sue Davies is chief policy adviser at Which?