Scottish Daily Mail

Now we all have to hide our cake tins from SNP’s fun police

- John MacLeod

AMONG the many affectiona­te monickers for Scotland, we are the ‘Land o’ Cakes’, be it the celebrated shortbread of Speyside, fragrant Kirriemuir gingerbrea­d or the almondstud­ded curling stone that is Dundee cake.

We are also, these days, devolved Scotland. under an executive in Edinburgh that, while ultimately responsibl­e for most public services, does not deliver them. And which, from its opening months, fast bristled with nanny-statism, and does so to this day.

It has banned this and regulated that. Prohibited smoking in enclosed public spaces. Set minimum prices for alcohol.

This is not entirely new. Even in Victorian times, more privileged Scots were forever meddling with the pleasures of the poor. Early last century, churchmen even inveighed against the iniquity of ice cream cafes, and the sale of raw, unpasteuri­sed milk has been illegal this side of the Tweed since 1983.

And now the clipboard-toting minions of this ongoing eat-your-vegetables bossiness are coming for our cakes.

They have not nationalis­ed Tunnocks. Well, not yet. But the new Healthier Bakery Fund is offering businesses – butchers, bakers, cafes and restaurant­s and shops – up to £5,000 to tweak their recipes. Reducing fat, sugar, calories and salt and, instead, whacking in fibre, wholegrain­s, fruit and vegetables.

And it is the sort of thing to reduce any sensible Scot to a mood of gloomy apprehensi­on.

Similar nonsense down south killed Sugar Puffs; swept away for ever the succulent Mars Bar of old. And some of our most cherished Scottish treats have no obvious line of defence against the sort of swivel-eyed Sturgeonis­ta who, like their fallen queen, seem to subsist daily on nine goji berries and a pint of steam.

To what appalling lengths might they go to make a Scotch pie good for you? Make it with wholemeal pastry, pack it with green kale and ban the least hint of dead animal?

What chance has a meringue – that exquisite sandwich of, say, whipped Galloway cream between two halves of the fluffiest baked sugar? What hope for the Lees Snowball, the Tunnocks Teacake, the Greggs sausage roll? Did McCowan’s Highland Toffee die in vain?

LAURA Wilson of Food Standards Scotland says: ‘Reformulat­ion is one of the most effective ways the food industry can help improve the everyday foods we eat.

‘our recent research found that the average calories in sweet bakery products, from outlets such as coffee shops, bakeries and cafes, to be over 450, with the highest products reaching over 1,600 calories.

‘When put in context with the 2,000-calorie recommende­d average intake for a female, these products can make up a big proportion of a full day’s calories.’

There’ll not be many gate crashers at her parties. of course, there are obvious issues of public concern behind all this. Scotland’s lamentable dental health, rising obesity and two of our biggest killers, heart disease and bowel cancer. Both pathologie­s closely related to bad eating habits.

But there are complexiti­es here much greater than merely engineerin­g a bridie of such cheerless, virtue-is-its-ownpunishm­ent perfection that it might conceivabl­y be munched by Yoko ono.

Two ingredient­s in widely retailed food – hydrogenat­ed vegetable fat and high-fructose corn syrup – are themselves Frankenste­in fare originally whipped up in laboratori­es and are really, really bad for you.

And neither was ever tenderly stirred into your Granny’s mixing bowl as she prepared her peerless scones. But the horrors of highly processed food, from the beauties mentioned above to the nitrites generally flung into bacon and sausages, seem to be completely off Laura Wilson’s radar.

our eating patterns have also changed. our rural forebears – which, for most of us, was only two or three generation­s ago – breakfaste­d on porridge, ate their heartiest meal at noon, and had a light all-in ‘high tea’ in the evening.

Many of us now do not breakfast at all, grab some cheerless commercial sandwich at lunch and then eat heavily in the evening. Before slumping in front of Netflix, then, to bed.

We do not move nearly as much as our great-grandparen­ts did. They, for the most part, walked everywhere. Housework and laundry, in the days before modern convenienc­e, called for serious labour. (My 94-year-old aunt can still remember her mother, with all the other womenfolk of the township, doing the week’s washing in the local river.)

And they also lived in an era when treats really were treats – prized precisely because there were so infrequent. Gingerbrea­d was something a child might taste once a year at a farmers’ fair.

JAM was a delicacy only offered to visitors, or as a bribe when you were out on the hill all day helping your parents with the peats. And, even in my 1970s childhood, pudding – usually ice cream – was served only on Sunday: sweets and pop were confined to Fridays.

There was also much more ritual around eating. Meals were at the same times each day. All sat round one table. Grace, at least in respectabl­e homes, was usually said. Clean plates were de rigueur and, after two wars, there was horror at wasted food.

Well into living memory, obesity was, by and large, an affliction of the rich.

Now so few families even possess a dining table that it was removed more than 20 years ago from the list of typical purchases used in the calculatio­n of retail-price inflation.

We slurp, chomp and graze through the day and fewer people even know how to cook, beyond sticking some ready meal into the microwave.

If the Scottish Government is serious about our woeful national diet, it might do much better to make three periods of home economics a week – and for boys too – obligatory.

Cooking is not difficult: it is primarily a matter of confidence and a keen head for counting backwards. For last night’s meal, served at six, I knew the gigot had to be in the oven about a quarter past three, the potatoes set aboil about half-five, the broccoli seethed about ten to six.

Food Standards Scotland, the Healthier Bakery Fund and Food and Drink Federation Scotland mean well.

But the problems are much wider than the daunting challenge of devising sugar-free Empire biscuits, doughnuts innocent of fat or mutton pies without any, um, mutton.

The challenge is cultural and the solution must be educationa­l: not the wagging finger and the scolding tone.

And there is one diverting puzzle. Were we not really much better governed when the politician­s of the day were, for the most part, rather fat?

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