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28 February 2018

S5M-09834 Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2018

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-09834, in the name of Clare Haughey, on eating disorders awareness week 2018. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes that 26 February marks the beginning of Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2018; acknowledges that these disorders are serious mental health conditions that affect people psychologically, socially, and physically; understands that approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder, of which an estimated 89% are female; praises the Scottish Eating Disorders Interest Group and the charity, Beat, on providing what it sees as vital help for people with such conditions and their families; notes that the Scottish Government's Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027 commits to working toward the development of a digital tool to specifically support young people with eating disorders; highlights the programme, See Me, which it considers has been instrumental in tackling the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health issues, including eating disorders, and notes the calls for all stakeholders to continue to working together to ensure that the appropriate help is available and that early intervention is essential in reducing unnecessary deaths.

17:05
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17:17

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I thank Clare Haughey for providing us with the opportunity to have this important debate. She mentioned our colleague Dennis Robertson, and it reminded me—and, I guess, others who were in the chamber at the time—of how Mr Robertson’s first speech on this subject, which was about his daughter, made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I remember the personal and emotional charge that I felt as he talked about his personal circumstances. However, he turned what could have been a life-constraining tragedy into the driver of a very worthwhile campaign that we would all support, and I note that he continues his public service in Aberdeenshire Council, where I see him regularly and continue to have good discussions with him.

We have all referred to the increase in the number of people presenting with eating disorders. I am delighted to hear that, in Clare Haughey’s constituency, the 18-week target for being seen has been substantially bettered, but perhaps more interestingly—and more troubling—it takes, I am told, an average 149 weeks before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. Perhaps we should look in the mirror with regard to some of the ways in which we and wider society respond to people with eating disorders and perhaps, without meaning to, discourage them from seeking the kind of help that they really need. It is said that 34 per cent of adults in the UK cannot identify signs of an eating disorder, while 79 per cent do not know that there are psychological symptoms associated with such disorders.

Some of these anomalies lie in the fact that we still view those who suffer from eating disorders as having only one body type—skinny and sickly—and perhaps as being selfish. That is utterly wrong. Many believe that people of normal weight or who are overweight cannot be suffering from an eating disorder; unless you look very unhealthy and weak, people will assume that you are fine. It is a common misconception that sufferers are simply attention seekers.

Clare Haughey mentioned anorexia and bulimia, and gave us a list of other conditions that apply, of which there are a huge number that we need to pay attention to. I want to talk a little about social factors. I am disturbed—I do not know whether others will be—by the fact that Weight Watchers has started offering free six-week memberships to children as young as 13. I am sure that it has reasons for doing so and that part of what it will say is that it is fighting childhood obesity and other health complications. However, offering that kind of illusory opportunity to people who are potentially vulnerable emotionally and whose body shape is likely to be rapidly changing is not something that I feel comfortable to support. The simple consent of parents is all that is required for teens to be granted that imperfect opportunity to get that supermodel physique.

It has been some years since I have paraded my physique on the beach or at the side of a pool and there are good reasons for that, because I am somewhat short of that ideal shape. I can see that members around the chamber are nodding in agreement with that. However, we live in a society that glamorises that illusion of perfection, which is something that we should all seek to address. We need to educate people about symptoms and treatments and the fact that there is no condemnation in accepting that we have eating disorders. We are endomorphs or ectomorphs from genetic disposition.

Again I congratulate Dennis on having first brought this issue to Parliament in the way that he did and I congratulate Clare on giving us the opportunity to discuss further a very important subject.

17:22

27 February 2018

S5M-10433 Scotch Whisky (Contribution to Tourism)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-10433, in the name of Rachael Hamilton, on the Scotch whisky industry’s contribution to the Scottish tourism industry. The debate will be concluded without any question being put. Members who wish to speak in the debate should press their request-to-speak buttons now.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the contribution that Scotch whisky makes to the Scottish tourism sector; believes that 2016 saw a record number of visits to Scotch whisky distilleries, totalling 1.7 million, meaning that Scotch whisky distilleries, as a tourist attraction, are as popular as the Scottish National Gallery and St Paul’s Cathedral; understands that the average visitor spend was £31 per person and £53 million overall in 2016; welcomes the new distillery to Hawick by The Three Stills Company, the first in the Scottish Borders since 1837, where a local visitor centre is planned, and wishes new and old whisky distilleries continued success in the coming year and beyond.

17:10
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17:25

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I, too, thank Rachael Hamilton for creating this opportunity to talk about the wonderful Scottish product that is whisky. It is almost impossible to imagine that, between 1837 and now, there was no informal production of whisky in Rachael Hamilton’s constituency, as there was right across Scotland. Indeed my father, as a GP in Fife, used to get the occasional informal bottle from one of his patients in the 1950s and 1960s.

I have an intern working with me at the moment—Chase, who is from the United States. He tells me that, prior to departing for Scotland, he received three questions: whether he would be buying a kilt, whether he would be trying haggis and how many whisky tours he would be tagging along for. Thus far, he has had no budget for a kilt, he has yet to try haggis and he has been on only one tour, so he still has a lot to do. That is testament to how much is known about whisky and how important it is as a symbol or emblem of Scotland and Scottish tourism.

Why does whisky account for such a large proportion of our food and drink exports? I suggest that it is because of its diversity. We have a whisky for every occasion and palate, with or without food. I have a pal who shared a tiny portion of whisky out of a bottle that cost £1,000. I will not buy such a bottle, and I noticed the care with which my friend resealed the bottle to ensure that there was no escape. There is a little bit of magic in every bottle of whisky.

There is also a bit of a gender issue around whisky. It is predominantly thought of as being a male drink, so I welcome the fact that, yesterday, Johnnie Walker produced a new bottle of whisky called the Jane Walker, which has a young lady on the label instead of the man in the top hat. That has not necessarily gone down terribly well. Maura Judkis wrote a long and amusing article for The Washington Post yesterday, at the end of which she says, “This article is satirical.” If we are to change the gender issue around whisky, we might need to be a little more cautious about how we do it.

Huge numbers of people visit distilleries. My constituency has four, and I hope to get Chase up to visit some of them, to multiply his one visit to a distillery. The Isle of Arran distillery had more than 100,000 visitors in 2017. The numbers keep going up, and most distillers have found it useful to have a visitor centre to increase knowledge of whisky and to let people see the skills involved and the setting for this wonderful drink that goes across the world.

I often make personal references in my speeches, so I cannot let pass the opportunity to mention my father’s cousin, James Stevenson, later Lord Stevenson, who was the managing director of Johnnie Walker when the symbol that is currently on the label was introduced. As part of Lloyd George’s Government, he was responsible for the Immature Spirits (Restriction) Act 1915, which meant that whisky was kept in bond for three years, which improved its quality and marketability. He was also responsible for the fact that the English got a football stadium: Wembley.

17:29

S5M-10652 Healthy Weight Strategy

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-10652, in the name of Aileen Campbell, on developing a Scottish healthy weight strategy. I call on the minister to speak to and move the motion.

14:24
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15:48

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

David Stewart made a sideways reference to what we should call my seniority in this debate. Indeed, looking round, I see that I am the only member—apart from someone in front of me, perhaps—who might remember rationing. Indeed, I was six years old—[Laughter.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer: The ground is gradually opening up under your feet, Mr Stevenson.

Stewart Stevenson: When I wrote this speech, someone else was in the Presiding Officer’s chair, of course.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I was six when sugar rationing ended, so as a youngster my palate was not used to having sweet things. There is an important point in the rather amusing comment that I made, which is that how we eat in the very early days of our lives will influence our preferences throughout our lives. I have survived to the point where my blood pressure is 120 over 60, my heart rate is 72 and my respiration is running at about 20. More critically, I have been sworn in to the Parliament on five occasions and on each occasion I have worn the same suit. However, now for the bad news: I am 30 per cent heavier than I was when I got married nearly 50 years ago. So, it is not all good news; it is merely not as bad as it might be.

I am afraid that I must say that most of that weight gain is probably fat rather than muscle. Brian Whittle—the most accomplished athlete in our number this afternoon—would no doubt agree that of course muscle weighs more than fat so perhaps there is a modest advantage.

I want to talk a little bit about the psychology of being overweight. We heard about tomorrow’s debate on eating disorders; of course, such disorders can cause people to be underweight or overweight. Being in possession of an eating disorder is linked to stress and low self-esteem; it might even be linked to some degree of mental ill health. Some of the language that is used does not help. We have used the expression “junk food” quite frequently in this debate and I think that when we suggest to people that they are eating junk food, we demean them and we disincentivise them; we make them feel bad about themselves, because the word “junk” is not a nice word. I do not think that it is the kind of word that we should use too much.

We have heard a little bit about labelling—from Ash Denham, for example. We need vigorous rules on labelling. It is sometimes really quite difficult to work things out. I pick things up and I look at how many calories they have. Then I notice that in tiny, tiny print, it says that the number of calories is what is in half the contents of the packet. In some cases, it is even a fifth of the packet. I want to see, in 20-point print on the front of everything that is prepackaged, how many calories are in the packet. Then I can start to do some meaningful estimation.

Members have talked about the outdoors and exercise. It is worth saying that we can extend the eating habits of the young by encouraging them to just walk around. There is hedgerow food—we normally pick enough brambles to last for most of the year. They go in the freezer. There has been a huge crop of wild raspberries in our area, and there are mushrooms out there. If I want something sweet when I am in the country, I pick up a clover flower and just stick it in my mouth and suck it; it is lovely. There is seaweed not far away, there is tree resin, and there are nettles, which are an excellent thing to add to mince, stews and so on. Of course, when they are cooked, they have no adverse effect whatsoever on one’s palate.

We have talked a bit about salt, which is, of course, sodium chloride. It is possible to buy formulations of salt that have potassium chloride, which is much less harmful to the metabolism, but gives exactly the same flavour benefits.

We have heard a little bit about alcohol. I must confess to members here and now that I reckon that the amount of calories in my alcohol consumption is probably equivalent to a meal a week, and for a lot of members it might be something similar. People should think of their alcohol consumption in those terms when they are thinking of its benefits.

In my lifetime—and I think that this goes to the heart of it—there has been a shift. At the beginning of my life, people were eating to live; now, alas, too many of us are living to eat.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: That was entertaining as usual, Mr Stevenson, as well as informative. I call Anas Sarwar to close for Labour.

15:53

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