Publication - Advice and guidance

Beyond the School Gate - Improving Food Choices in the School Community

Published: 3 Jun 2014
Part of:
Health and social care

Beyond the School Gate guidance was launched on 1st May 2014. It provides guidance for local authorities, schools, retailers, caterers and other partners on what they can do to influence the food environment around schools and support children and young people to make healthier choices.

70 page PDF

996.5 kB

70 page PDF

996.5 kB

Beyond the School Gate - Improving Food Choices in the School Community
Opportunities For Action

70 page PDF

996.5 kB

Opportunities For Action

The following sections set out key areas for action to positively influence the food environment beyond the school gate. This includes action to encourage children and young people to remain on site during the school day rather than purchase food from nearby outlets.

1. Stay on site and alternative outlet provision in schools - provides guidance on options to encourage school pupils to stay on site at lunchtime and the use of alternative outlets to deliver school food.

2. Marketing, promotions and incentives - provides information on the marketing and promotion of foods from outlets near schools and guidance on how to incentivise children and young people to make healthier choices.

3. Support and guidance for caterers and retailers - provides an overview of the resources available to caterers and retailers to help them provide healthier food options.

4. Regulation: Environmental Health, licensing and planning - provides guidance on environmental health, the licensing of mobile street traders and the role of planning in relation to local food outlets in the vicinity of schools.

1 Stay on site and alternative outlet provision in schools

A great deal of work has been done to improve the quality of school food in Scotland. With the introduction of The Nutritional Requirements for Food in School (Scotland) Regulations 2008, children and young people are now offered a choice of healthy food options throughout the school day. However, some children and young people still choose to leave the school grounds and purchase food from nearby outlets. As a result, schools are thinking innovatively about how they can encourage children and young people to purchase food in schools to ensure the quality and nutritional content of the food on offer.

Many local authorities have consulted with children and young people, parents, catering staff and school staff to determine their views and opinions on an array of issues around school food. In response, they have made a number of improvements to encourage more children and young people to purchase school food including:

  • Pre-order facilities and made to order provision;
  • Alternative queuing systems;
  • Dining room improvements; and
  • Additional till and service points.

Such practices are now commonly observed in school dining areas across Scotland. In almost all cases these changes have had a positive impact on the numbers of young people using school lunchtime facilities. These types of activities are explored further in Better Eating, Better Learning: A New Context for School Food[1]

Stay on site

Some schools are providing activities during the lunch break to help encourage children and young people to voluntarily remain within the school grounds and eat a healthy school lunch. Research has shown that this approach is effective in reducing the number of children and young people who leave school to purchase their lunch from local outlets[20].

In addition, some schools have taken the decision to restrict children and young people from leaving the school grounds during the school day by introducing a stay on site policy.

There are a number of considerations for schools when thinking about introducing such a policy.

When introducing a stay on site policy, key points for consideration include:

  • Engagement: Involving children and young people, parents and staff is an important element of any stay on site initiative. Clear and regular engagement with all involved is important to secure support.
  • Staffing: Buy-in and support from school staff is crucial for successful implementation. Volunteers, parents and senior pupils might also be able to be recruited to run lunchtime activities and assist with supervision.
  • Facilities: Schools need to ensure that they can accommodate those who choose to stay on site, eat a school lunch and participate in an activity. To speed up children and young people's dining experience and accommodate increased numbers, schools could consider introducing alternative settings and mechanisms for purchasing lunch e.g. pre-order or 'grab and go' options, as well as staggered lunch breaks, queue rotas and priority queuing for those participating in an activity. Schools should ensure that options are available for children and young people with particular dietary needs e.g. for health reasons or due to particular beliefs.
  • Activities: Activities e.g. sport, music, art are an essential component of successful stay on site policies. What is offered will vary between schools and will depend on available resources (both staff and facilities) and children and young people's interests. Children and young people should be involved in developing activity programmes and made aware of what is available. Schools should also consider options for children and young people with specific needs and for those who do not wish to participate in organised lunchtime activities.
  • Implementation: Schools should consider a staged approach to implementation. An introductory period provides an opportunity to seek feedback from staff and parents as well as children and young people and to make any necessary changes.
  • Monitoring & evaluation: Once implemented, appropriate monitoring of stay on site is essential to gain feedback, gauge impact and identify areas for improvement. This should involve staff, parents, children and young people and should be built in when developing implementation plans.


Views from children and young people, parents and staff of stay on site pilot

A pilot project to encourage children and young people to stay on site took a holistic approach to create an enjoyable, healthy, active lunchtime environment. A package of activities was established in each school to provide a positive incentive for children and young people to remain on the school premises at lunchtime.

An evaluation sought views from children and young people, staff and parents on the initiative:

Children and young people - considered lunchtime activities to be one of the best aspects as it gave them something to do with friends at lunchtime. Other positive effects included reduced pressure from peers to go out if they didn't want to and less likelihood of bullying and teasing of those who wanted to stay in school. Children and young people also thought school meals were good value, good quality and healthy.

School staff - reported a number of other positive impacts including improved safety, reduced lateness and truancy and better opportunities for children and young people to get to know each other and engage with teaching staff.

Parents/carers - were reassured that their child was in school at lunchtime, particularly in relation to their safety. Many were concerned about the risk of injury from road traffic, getting into fights and stranger danger. They also felt that stay on site provided an opportunity for their children to make friends in a safe, structured environment.

Further information is available at

Alternative school food outlets

Addressing factors such as queuing and ordering systems within existing dining provision in schools may provide only a partial solution to encourage young people to remain on site. In recognising this, several local authorities have taken the step of looking outwith existing facilities to explore the potential for a more flexible approach.

Local authorities are investing in a growing range of additional food provision within school grounds which target children and young people before they leave school, including:

  • Static food kiosks or huts;
  • Creative adaptions of existing but underutilised spaces or buildings both inside and outside the school building; and
  • Healthy mobile vans within school grounds.

St Paul's High School Hut, Pollok, Glasgow

St Paul's High School Hut, Pollok, Glasgow

These additional outlets sell the same food, both hot and cold, at the same cost as would be available in the dining area, often in a more portable form. In some cases the range may be more limited but still meets the requirements of the food and drink standards within The Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2008.

In addition to investment in a range of facilities, investment in people has been a key factor for success. Training staff ensures that they are prepared and able to champion good quality school food and sends a strong message to customers.

The Gallery café at Eastbank Academy, Shettleston, Glasgow

The Gallery café at Eastbank Academy, Shettleston, Glasgow

Alternative outlets

In considering additional food outlets within school grounds and inside school buildings, the following points may be helpful:


To be viable, ideally additional outlets will generate new sales not just scatter existing customers. Projecting target sales to achieve payback on significant investments is key in planning new facilities.


Additional staff may be required for new outlets and training maybe required.


A risk assessment will ensure that alternative outlets are safe for both the catering teams and the customers using the facility. For example, for outdoor facilities, furniture as well as uniforms must be appropriate. Also for some outlets consideration may be given to the use of customer flow barriers to ensure safe queuing.


Additional food outlets must ensure equal access for all customers. This includes options for those with particular dietary needs. Consideration should also be given to payment systems to ensure customers entitled to free school meals can access the facility and that their identity is protected.


It is essential that a senior school manager is included at all stages of planning additional food outlets. Issues such as supervision can then be addressed as the project progresses.


Consideration should be given to the security of both external and internal areas during school hours and while the school is unoccupied.


A litter policy may be required to ensure that appropriate provision is in place to take care of litter at additional service points.


Healthier Food Vans

In 2004, a local authority introduced mobile food vans into the grounds of three of its schools. The aim of the initiative was to encourage pupils to stay within the school grounds at lunchtime and help prevent problems often associated with a large amount of pupils descending on the town at lunchtime.

The vans are part of an overall push towards helping young people in the local authority to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle, while offering them the convenience and speed they would expect from local fast food vans.

These bespoke vans sell a range of hot and cold snacks that comply with The Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2008, and provide an additional service point for children and young people that choose not to use the existing school facilities.

The mobile vans have proved to be a successful addition to the school meals service and are used by approximately 11-27% of children and young people at the three schools.

2 Marketing, promotions and incentives

The way in which food and drink is marketed to children and young people can have a considerable bearing on what is purchased and eventually consumed. Marketing can affect young people directly or through peer and family groups. In a recent Young Scot survey[18], children and young people reported that the cost of lunch was the most important factor in deciding where to have lunch, closely followed by the type of food on offer. Meal deals and special offers were also considered to be important.

Schools often use promotions to encourage children and young people to choose a variety of different foods which support a healthy balanced diet. Many food outlets near schools also specifically target their marketing towards children and young people. However, as outlined earlier, the types of food on offer are often considerably different to that permitted within schools. Deals on chips, fizzy drinks, confectionery and other HFSS foods are common[21] and viewed by children and young people as good value and a reasonable alternative to school food. However, the Young Scot survey[15] showed that young people will choose healthier options such as water, sandwiches and fruit, where they are available.

Furthermore, Children in Scotland[15] found that children and young people felt they could be encouraged to eat more healthily if: there were more healthy options available, these foods were cheaper; and healthy options were more visible.

Retailers and caterers, in addition to schools, have a crucial role to play to encourage and support children and young people to choose healthier options. Marketing can be used to rebalance promotions across retail and catering outlets to better encourage healthier behaviour and be a positive force in promoting healthier choices. Action is, however, required at both a local and national level to achieve the scale of change that is needed. In simple terms, this is about:

  • the right product;
  • sold at the right price;
  • in the right place; and
  • using the most suitable promotion.

At a local level

There are a range of options available to retailers and caterers, and also schools, to support the marketing and promotion of healthier food options throughout the school day.


Both retail and catering businesses, as well as schools, use advertising to attract customers. Effort should be made to promote and make children and young people aware of healthier options through advertising activity.


Clear labelling around calories, fat, sugar and salt content as well as ingredients, cooking methods and where the food comes from can assist children and young people to make informed choices and help them to identify healthier options. A new voluntary front of pack labelling scheme[22] was introduced in the UK in June 2013.


Healthy options should be visible and prominently positioned within store to help encourage uptake. For example, placing fruit and vegetables at the front of the store or moving confectionery away from till points.


There is an opportunity to rebalance food promotions and offers towards healthier products using available guidance[23]. A key driver for consumers is price. Therefore, offers on healthier options would encourage healthier choices[18]. Examples include:

  • providing a side salad instead of chips;
  • offering a free piece of fruit with the purchase of particular products;
  • having healthier items as an option in lunch deals e.g. including water and fruit as part of meal deals;
  • offering smaller portion sizes of HFSS foods; and
  • no upselling of any HFSS food item at the point of purchase e.g. 'go large'.

The Co-op and Sainsbury's have set targets to ensure that respectively 30% and a third of their promotions are for non-HFSS foods.

Some companies are now providing soft drinks in 250ml formats. In Scotland, consumption of single serve soft drinks of up to 250ml is up 6.4%.

Rewards and incentives schemes

Rewards and incentives can be another helpful way to encourage children and young people to make healthier choices both inside and outside of school. Many local authorities have developed rewards and incentive schemes to encourage young people to stay in school, including:

  • Competitions for those who buy a school meal within a specific time period;
  • Donations to charities and good causes related to school meal purchases; and
  • Loyalty schemes tied in to wider behaviour, attendance and attainment reward schemes within schools.

Such schemes could be similarly run beyond the school gate and we would encourage retailers and caterers as well as schools to consider how rewards and incentive schemes can play a role to support healthier choices.

Key points: Rewards and incentive schemes

Interested in starting up a rewards or incentive scheme? A few things to bear in mind:

  • Rewards schemes must take into account the views of children and young people to ensure the reward on offer is valued by them.
  • It is essential to review rewards or incentive schemes regularly to maintain the interest and engagement of children and young people.
  • Any rewards scheme should complement existing local health promotion activity e.g. promoting healthy meal choices, encouraging the uptake of fruit or participation in an active lifestyle.
  • There is a need to brief all staff well in order that they can provide support and encouragement by referring to particular rewards or incentives when taking orders, at the till point, when teaching and in the dining room.
  • Local businesses and schools should look to work in partnership to implement rewards and incentive schemes to encourage healthier food choices e.g. outlets offering similar promotions as those available within school.
  • Rewards schemes can enable children and young people to explore issues which affect food selection by working with their school catering service such as the effect of media and advertising on consumer choice. Such activity can
    directly support the experiences and outcomes for health and wellbeing set out in Curriculum for Excellence.


Young Scot Rewards

Young Scot has developed a national rewards programme which local authorities can use to encourage healthy choices, either within or outside of school.

Young Scot Rewards aims to encourage young people to participate in positive activities by offering points which can then be used to unlock rewards, including unique opportunities and 'money can't buy' experiences. Encouraging healthy choices is a key aim of Young Scot Rewards.

The rewards programme encourages young people to stay in school by offering points for every day a young person chooses a school meal. As two-thirds of local authorities use the Young Scot National Entitlement Card to support cashless catering in secondary schools, points can be awarded automatically each day.

There is an opportunity to extend Young Scot Rewards to incentivise healthy choices beyond the school gate. Practically, an organisation which wishes to offer points to young people making healthy choices could do so by one (or a combination) of the following methods:

  • Handing out a points voucher (or including it on packaging), on to which a six digit points code is printed which can be entered by young people on the Rewards portal to claim their points; or
  • By using a bespoke Young Scot card reader to read the smartcards and award points automatically.

For more information, go to

Examples of how young people can earn points

  • Choosing healthier food options
  • Volunteering (Saltire Awards)
  • Participating in youth groups
  • Participating in sports events

Example rewards

  • Backstage interviews with celebrities
  • Tickets to cultural and sporting events
  • Discounted driving lessons
  • Unique work shadowing opportunities


Other rewards and incentive schemes

Some rewards schemes offer points to children and young people for making healthy choices in school meals. These points can then be traded at the end of term for items such as shopping vouchers, cinema tickets and gym memberships. Young people can view their points balance online and trade in their points for their preferred rewards. The catering service invests in providing these rewards as it is seen to provide an effective return-on-investment in terms of encouraging people to stay in school at lunchtime.

At a national level

Healthy Living Award and Healthy Living Programme

Both of these Scottish Government funded initiatives provide support and guidance on the marketing of healthier options for caterers and retailers respectively. Further information on these schemes is provided in section 3 of this document.

Supporting Healthy Choices

A new voluntary framework setting out action to support healthier choices will be launched during 2014. The framework has been developed by the Scottish Government and the Food Standards Agency in Scotland and invites retailers, manufacturers and caterers as well as the public sector to take voluntary action to encourage the Scottish population to make healthier food choices.

The framework is underpinned by four key principles:

  • putting children's health first;
  • rebalancing promotional activities;
  • supporting consumers and communities; and
  • formulating healthier products and menus.

The framework sets out commitments across these four areas which food companies can sign up to. Commitments on the marketing and promotion of food and drink are included within the framework and will directly support local marketing and promotional activity in food outlets around schools. These include:

  • the removal of confectionery from till points, checkout aisles and areas around checkouts;
  • to provide and incentivise healthy meal deals, particularly for school-age children and young people;
  • to rebalance promotions to support healthier choices; and
  • for caterers to work towards achieving the Healthy Living Award.

With children's health at its heart, this voluntary framework complements and reinforces the action proposed in this document. Roll out of the framework will further support local action by retailers, caterers, schools and local authorities to encourage children and young people to make healthier choices throughout the school day.

More information is available at

Front of Pack Labelling

In June 2013, the four Health Ministers across the UK recommended a new voluntary front of pack nutrition labelling scheme to help consumers see at a glance what is in their food and drink and enable them to make more informed choices.

Example of front of pack labelling

Example of front of pack labelling

The new label is colour-coded red, amber and green, and highlights 'percentage reference intakes' (formerly known as guideline daily amounts), to show how much fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar and energy is in a product.

Red colour coding means the food or drink is high in this nutrient and we should try to have these foods less often or eat them in small amounts.

Amber means medium, and if a food contains mostly amber you can eat it most of the time.

Green means low, and the more green lights a label displays the healthier the choice.

Further guidance on the Front of Pack Labelling scheme is available at

3 Support and guidance for caterers and retailers

Caterers and retailers are well placed to encourage children and young people, as well as their wider customer base, to make healthier food choices. This will also help to create greater parity between the food choices on offer both within and outwith school grounds. To encourage healthier choices, it is essential that retailers and caterers are well informed and understand the importance of a healthy diet. The provision of straightforward guidance, support and appropriate training can help achieve this and give retailers and caterers the knowledge and confidence they need to offer their customers healthier options.

Support for caterers

Healthy Living Award

The Healthy Living Award works with food outlets and the catering industry across Scotland to encourage changes in practice to promote healthy eating and make it easier for people to make healthier choices when eating outside the home. Since the award was introduced in 2006, over 2000 businesses have been involved including local authorities, the NHS, community organisations, and catering businesses. The award is managed and delivered by NHS Health Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government. The award forms an integral part of the Scottish Government's Preventing Overweight and Obesity Route Map.

To achieve the award certain conditions must be met. These conditions are based on the general principles of a healthy balanced diet and appropriate sales promotion and marketing activity to encourage and support healthier eating. The award conditions ensure that healthier ingredients and cooking methods are used to keep fat, salt and sugar to a minimum, and that options, such as water, low fat dairy products and fruit and vegetables, are always available.

The award is free and open to all types* of food service outlets in Scotland, including cafés, sandwich shops, restaurants, mobile vans and other places that sell prepared food. We know from research[18] that some children and young people who leave school at lunchtime purchase food from these types of establishment. Children and young people also tell us that they want to make healthier choices. By participating in the Healthy Living Award scheme, caterers can better support children and young people to make healthier choices.

*The award is closed to a small number of establishment types, such as schools, nurseries and in-patient hospital catering.

Benefits of joining the Healthy Living Award include:

  • Public recognition;
  • Ability to satisfy the growing demand for healthier food;
  • Improved knowledge of healthier foods and catering practices;
  • Quick, easy and recognised way to show that healthier ingredients and food preparation methods are used on site; and
  • Research shows that the Healthy Living Award is at least cost neutral.

Is the Healthy Living Award for me?

The HLA is open to a range of catering businesses. Examples of businesses that have achieved the award include:

  • mobile food van;
  • Chinese/Indian takeaway;
  • sandwich shop; and
  • leisure centre café.

Support and materials are provided by a team of experienced staff, and further information is available by contacting
or registering online at

Further support for small caterers

Advice and tips on key areas which caterers could look at to achieve healthier food provision are provided in Annex C.

In addition, The Food Standards Agency in Scotland is taking forward action as part of the Supporting Healthy Choices Voluntary Framework, to look at further support for small catering businesses to help them provide healthier foods and where possible provide information for consumers on healthier options. This work will take place over the next 12 months. Updates are available at

Support for small retailers

Healthy Living Programme

The Scottish Grocers' Federation (SGF) Healthy Living Programme is a partnership between Scottish Government and the convenience retail food industry in Scotland. Launched in 2004, it is an integral part of the Scottish Government's action to improve dietary health with a focus on reducing health inequalities across Scotland.

The Programme encourages healthier eating choices by supporting convenience retailers, especially those in areas of multiple deprivation, to improve the accessibility, quality and affordability of healthier foods and subsequently support Scottish retailers to increase sales of healthier foods and improve their businesses.

Since its inception, over 1300 retailers have been involved. The Programme continues to receive the support of the Scottish Government who recognises the unique role convenience stores play in supporting individuals and families to make healthier life choices. The Programme has recently been expanded from focusing on only fruit and vegetables to include other healthier products such as some sandwiches and milk.

Retailers who join the programme can benefit free of charge from a range of services; from a choice of stands to promote healthier products within their store(s) to on-going promotional materials. In addition, the Healthy Living Programme Team provide support to train varying levels of convenience store staff. They also provide advice on presentation, quality and how to provide the best range of healthier options within store and maximise sales.

Research19 shows that children and young people often purchase their lunch from convenience stores at lunchtime. The programme, therefore, offers a unique opportunity to target premises around schools to offer support to retailers to provide and promote healthier options for children and young people choosing to leave the school grounds at lunchtime. It can also offer a link to schools to work with local retailers to organise events to promote the importance of healthier products at for example breakfast.

To contact the Programme or for more information visit the website at

Benefits of joining the Healthy Living Programme include:

  • Greater understanding of healthier foods and options;
  • Advice, training and support to help retailers promote healthier options;
  • Increased sales of healthier food items;

On average sales of fruit and veg increase by over 20% after joining the Healthy Living Programme

  • Greater potential to engage with local schools around food events;
  • Free resources such as stands, leaflets and signage; and
  • Access to suppliers through the Programme's networking events.

Further support for retailers

The Young Scot survey[18] found that in addition to convenience stores, supermarkets are amongst the most popular lunchtime outlets for children and young people. Larger retailers are therefore also encouraged to consider what action they can take to promote and provide healthier options for children and young people throughout the school day.

The SGF Healthy Living Programme guidance[24] is available and relevant to all retailers, large and small, and provides useful guidance for retailers on healthier food provision.

Similarly, the Supporting Healthier Choices Voluntary Framework sets out specific actions for all retailers to support children and young people to access healthier options, for example, through the removal of confectionery at till points and the provision of healthier meal deals. Further details are available at


Working in partnership with large food retailers

A local health board and community food project are working in partnership with a large food retailer to promote positive healthy food messages amongst staff.

Interested staff are being invited to participate in a unique and exciting pilot initiative aimed at providing customers with a little extra support when it comes to making positive food choices.

The benefits of this initiative are twofold: staff are given information on how to improve their own health and wellbeing; and customers shopping in store have the benefit of trained staff to help them make healthier food choices.

Many store staff already provide customers with help and advice, for example, finding particular products, highlighting in-store promotions. This initiative builds on those skills and encourages staff to become food champions.

The vision of a food champion is a person who is able to:

1. Guide customers to take full advantage of the range of foods available in store; and

2. Provide helpful suggestions for recipe ideas, local and seasonal food choices, and in-store promotions.

Training for retailers and caterers

Provision of training and guidance is an important route through which catering and retail employees can improve their knowledge of food and health. Better knowledge will help businesses to provide healthier options and encourage their customers to make healthier food choices.

The Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS) promote Food Hygiene and Food and Health training as part of a programme of essential employee development for the food, catering and retail sectors. There is wide availability across Scotland with 160 centres approved to deliver Food and Health training. Other organisations offer similar courses, so the availability of training to raise the understanding of food, health and nutrition in the retail sector is extensive. Further information is available at

Food businesses are already required to provide employees with training in food hygiene commensurate with the employee's job specification. Food businesses are therefore encouraged to consider food and health training in addition to food safety. Similarly, local authorities are invited to consider whether training could be a condition on the licence of mobile street traders.

4 Regulation: Environmental Health, licensing and planning

There is a growing call for local authorities to take action to restrict the operation of mobile food vans and the proliferation of food outlets in the vicinity of schools. This is often seen as a means of limiting the availability of foods high in fat, salt and sugar to children and young people during the school day. The current licensing and planning systems in place in Scotland give local authorities some powers to introduce certain restrictions. Similarly, the role of environmental health and how this can influence healthier catering practice in local areas has also been the subject of much discussion. This section describes how local authorities might consider using environmental health, licensing, and planning to positively influence the food environment around schools and is intended to facilitate a dialogue between relevant partners.

Environmental Health

The regulation of food hygiene and food standards is currently undertaken by environmental health professionals within local authorities. There are presently different measures that allow for the food environment near schools to be influenced by environmental health officers. This includes the traditional hygiene inspection of the food businesses as well as an emerging role in the provision of public information in relation to the food businesses and foods on sale within these businesses.

Consumers are increasingly citing the importance of good hygiene and cleanliness when eating out of the home. Data from the FSA publication Food and You[25] found that cleanliness and hygiene was an important factor for over 2/3 of respondents (69%) when eating out. Other factors influencing eating out choices included service (63%), price (54%) and healthy food choices (32%). With this in mind, a greater awareness amongst children and young people of food hygiene and how to check the status of local establishments would help them make more informed choices about where they choose to eat their lunch.

Food Hygiene Information Scheme

Local authority enforcement officers are responsible for inspecting food businesses to check that they meet the requirements of food hygiene law. These requirements include the hygiene conditions and the management procedures in place for providing safe food. The inspection result given as part of the Food Hygiene Information Scheme (FHIS) is either a 'Pass' or 'Improvement Required'.

The scheme is used as a condition for the assessment of the Healthy Living Award (see section 3). A premise must achieve a PASS rating and have the necessary nutritional conditions in place before it can be awarded the Healthy Living Award. The FHIS Pass award is relatively achievable by most food premises.

Eat Safe Award

Food businesses that pass the FHIS can also apply for the Eat Safe award. Adoption of this award is voluntary for local authorities and does not form part of their statutory duties. However, to ensure no additional burden on resources, assessment for the Eat Safe award can be carried out at the same time as a statutory food hygiene inspection.

The main aim of the scheme is to provide an incentive to food businesses to strive for food hygiene and food safety excellence by effectively implementing management standards beyond those required by law. The award certificates, which are displayed in premises, also help consumers make informed choices about where to eat out by providing a recognisable 'sign' of excellence in standards of food hygiene.

Eat Safe Awards are administered by local authority Environmental Health Services (EHS) in conjunction with the Food Standards Agency Scotland. Eat Safe is proving extremely successful as the number of food businesses meeting the award criteria continues to grow. More information is available at

Expanding the role of Environmental Health

Local authorities are encouraged to consider what role Environmental Health professionals could play in promoting healthier options and/or practices to businesses including signposting activity, beyond its current remit around food safety and hygiene.

Environmental Health is often considered a possible route through which local authorities could monitor the range of healthier foods available from establishments in the vicinity of schools. Whilst it would take a further extension of powers to regulate this, there could be scope to expand the role of Environmental Health beyond its current remit to promote and signpost food businesses to resources available to support them to offer healthier options.

Opportunities for action

Environmental Health teams are well placed to encourage businesses to take action to better support healthy eating not only amongst children and young people but also the wider community. Possible roles might be:

  • to signpost advice on nutrition and the Healthy Living Award during inspections;
  • to encourage businesses to train their staff in food, health and nutrition and to attend accredited courses;
  • to take on a more health promotion role and encourage businesses to reduce the levels of salt, fat and sugar in takeaway food;
  • to have greater involvement in the planning of schools to ensure adequate kitchen and dining facilities;
  • to use enforcement powers on businesses providing packaged food that does not display nutritional information; and
  • to participate in local action to implement local polices on food, nutrition and health.


This section provides an overview of the process which can be used in terms of The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 to introduce a condition/restriction on street trader's licences. It highlights the key issues local authorities will want to consider in developing proposals to restrict street trading near schools if this course of action is deemed appropriate.

The licensing of street traders falls within section 39 of the 1982 Act. If a local authority has passed a resolution to licence street traders that means a street trader is required to hold a licence if they intend to sell, offer to sell or carry out a service paid for by any person in a public place. This includes selling from a vehicle, kiosk or moveable stall.

All 32 local authorities in Scotland licence street traders and at the time of publication, 14 authorities have placed a condition/restriction on trader's licences to restrict their operation in the vicinity of schools.

Restrictions have been introduced in respect of the area and/or times within which street traders can operate and, in effect, means there is an exclusion zone in place around schools within which street traders are not allowed to trade (usually during certain times/days). The degree of any condition/restriction is determined by local circumstances and varies between local authorities.

Key questions: Licensing

Key questions a local authority should consider when thinking about introducing licensing restrictions include:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a policy in place?
  • What impact will this have on street traders?
  • How many street traders would be affected?
  • Can any action be taken by the local authority to minimise possible impact (for instance in relation to distance, times etc)?
  • What enforcement action is envisaged?
  • Would the local authority be willing to accept signed undertakings from traders?
  • How will the condition be put on to traders licences (on a renewal basis or all at the same time)?

In this section we set out a potential approach, based on the experience of local authorities who have already chosen to implement restrictions. Whilst a number of local authorities have introduced restrictions, it is recognised that this option may not be appropriate for all. Local authorities need to be satisfied that they are not acting in any way that is ultra vires - i.e. beyond the scope of their legal powers. It is for individual local authorities to consider their own local circumstances and seek advice from their own legal departments regarding whether to add a condition/restriction to street trader's licences to prohibit their operation near schools.

Overview of the process which can be used to introduce a condition on a street trader's licence

1. Competence

a. As mentioned the licensing of street traders falls within the 1982 Act. In terms of the Act, a local authority has discretion to attach such conditions to licences as it sees fit (Schedule 1 paragraph 5). This discretion allows a local authority to attach conditions which relate to local situations and/or which are appropriate for that particular local authority area. It may be the case that the local authority's resolution in respect of street traders will require to be amended in accordance with the statutory process detailed in section 9 of the Act in order that a new condition can be attached to the licence.

b. Licences are granted by the local authority and are conditional on the street trader complying with the Act and with conditions attached to their licence.

2. Establish a policy

a. The local authority needs to have a firm basis and rationale for introducing a policy in terms of taking action to encourage healthy eating amongst children and young people, particularly in the vicinity of schools. This should be informed by and complement other local and national initiatives and policies to encourage and support healthy eating amongst children and young people and the wider community.

3. Development of proposals

a. When developing proposals, the local authority should consider the situation across the whole local authority area.

b. Key information should be gathered to inform and help develop proposals. This includes information such as:

  • the number of pupils taking school meals, packed lunch, and eating out, to determine the extent of the issue;
  • the times schools break for lunch and whether pupils are allowed outwith the school grounds, to help determine the timings any exclusion zone would be in place;
  • the number of traders in the vicinity of schools, including the number of employees and times and areas of operation to determine how many traders will be affected; and
  • information about the type of food sold by street traders and other local outlets to help inform the wording of any condition (for instance, are all street traders to be caught by the exclusion zone regardless of the type of food they sell or only trader's who sell specific food stuffs?). The Healthy Living Award criteria may provide a useful benchmark here.

c. Consideration should also be given to:

  • the distance of any proposed exclusion zone, which should be proportionate and reasonable in the circumstances, and where this will be measured from (i.e. the school gate, the centre of the school, the boundary fences?);
  • the times and days the exclusion zone will be in operation (for instance will it only be during term time?); and
  • whether the exclusion zone will be in place around both primary and secondary schools.

d. Proportionality, balance and enforceability are important key considerations at this stage. The benefits to the public of introducing an exclusion zone needs to outweigh any potential impact there may be on street traders. The local authority must ensure that they are not acting in a way which is ultra vires and any action taken by the local authority must be balanced against the right that street traders have to trade.

e. The development of proposals will then inform the wording of the draft resolution which will then, in turn, inform the wording of the condition which will be attached to licences.

4. Consultation

a. Once proposals have been developed, a consultation should be carried out. This is an important step and the consultation should be as wide and inclusive as possible to ensure that all interested parties e.g. street traders, schools, local residents, parents etc. have an opportunity to comment and put forward their views. If the resolution is to be amended, then there is a statutory consultation process which must be followed. Responses to the consultation should be used to inform any amendments to the draft proposals.

b. The responses may identify issues such as traders have a good client base that is not just school children, or the proposals will put traders out of business. At this stage, consideration can be given as to how any mitigation could be put in place to lessen any impact.

5. Identify barriers and possible solutions

a. It is important that any proposed condition/restriction is proportionate to what is trying to be achieved. Where possible, it is helpful to try and anticipate potential barriers and consequences (intended and unintended) of introducing a condition/restriction. This might include:

  • reduced litter and improved road safety and visual amenity around schools;
  • pupils/parents may feel they have a right to decide what they want to eat;
  • displacement of traders to other locations may elicit complaints from local residents; and
  • street traders may oppose the proposals.

6. Option appraisal

a. The local authority needs to be clear as to what objective it is trying to achieve. Local authorities should have considered whether there are any other ways to achieve this objective other than by introducing a condition on street traders licences which creates an exclusion zone around schools.

7. Impact assessment

a. The impact of the policy on all parties needs to be considered including: on street traders (in terms of their business); on local authorities (in terms of income from street trader licences) and on local residents, schools, and children and young people (in terms of healthy eating, litter, road safety etc).

b. In terms of the European Convention on Human Rights, every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. A licence is considered a possession.

c. In addition, the local authority must act in a reasonable manner and cannot act in any way which is ultra vires.

d. The impact assessment should inform the local authority's final decision on the terms of the proposed condition and help to ensure that any proposals are reasonable and proportionate.

8. Implementation

a. There are two mechanisms by which licences can be varied:

i. a condition can be imposed on a licence at the renewal stage. This could take up to three years to implement (as per the usual duration of a trader's licence)

ii. the licences of all traders can be varied at the same time following a notification and hearing procedure in terms of Schedule 1 paragraph 10 of the Act.

b. The local authority should be mindful that it cannot impose a blanket policy on all traders and each individual trader's circumstances must be considered. Similarly any interference with a person's Human Rights by the local authority must be legitimate and proportionate.

9. Enforcement

a. Effective enforcement is required to ensure that the policy is successful. Any enforcement action should be reasonable, appropriate and proportionate.

b. A breach of the condition would constitute an offence under section 7 of the 1982 Act and the licence holder could be liable to a fine not exceeding £3000.

c. Local authorities may wish to consider whether they are willing to accept a written undertaking from a street trader e.g. to not operate in particular zones or sell particular items to school children. It is open to local authorities to determine the terms of an undertaking if they wish to do so. Local authorities may also wish to consider whether they would want traders to display signs to the effect that they are not selling certain food to school children.

10. Evaluation

a. Evaluation of the impact of any restriction is essential to determine whether it is fulfilling the original objective. Evaluation should be built into the process to monitor impact, identify any unintended consequences and determine whether any modification is required.


The planning system is often identified as a key route through which local authorities can, and should, tackle over provision of food outlets near schools. However, the planning system, as it currently stands, may not readily lend itself to this purpose. That said, there are some opportunities to influence the food environment around schools over the longer term through the planning system. This section provides an overview of the planning system in Scotland and considers what role it can play in influencing the food environment around schools.


The planning system is used to make decisions about future development; to identify where development should occur in the long term and take decisions on whether individual development projects should be granted planning permission.

The aim is to deliver better places for Scotland in accordance with the Scottish Government's central purpose of creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth. The planning system seeks to deliver long term benefits for people but does not seek to control the lifestyle choices of individuals. Every local authority in Scotland has a role as a planning authority.

Key points: Planning

  • Good places to live will generally contain a variety of development and activity, from homes to shops, places of work and food outlets, with positive and negative affects being considered as part of the planning process;
  • Lifestyle choices of individuals are not controlled through the planning system but overall the planning system seeks to deliver long-term benefits for people;
  • Local Development Plans set out the detailed planning polices for each individual planning authority area;
  • Health objectives for a local area are one of a number of matters which can inform the Development Plan policy;
  • Decisions on planning applications are expected to fit with the Development Plan policies but material considerations should also be taken into account;
  • Decisions regarding change of use and whether planning permission is required rests with the individual planning authority in each case.

How you can get involved:

  • Partners wanting to influence what development happens in an area need to be involved in shaping the local Development Plan policies;
  • Development Plans are reviewed every five years. There are opportunities for individuals, organisations and communities to be involved in the review and help shape local planning policy. Any proposed changes need to be evidence based.

In Scotland, Scottish Ministers indicate the long-term direction of where growth should happen through the National Planning Framework. More detailed policy priorities are set out in Scottish Planning Policy. Both of these documents guide the preparation of Development Plans and can be used to inform decisions on individual planning applications (available at

Development is described in the planning Acts and all development requires planning permission. Types of development include:

i) the physical construction of and alterations to buildings;

ii) changes to the type of activity, or 'use', which goes on within a building or on a site. Changes between types of activity are known as 'change of use'.

Development Plans

All planning authorities prepare Local Development Plans and Supplementary Guidance, which set out the detailed planning policies for the individual planning authority area. Some areas are also covered by a Strategic Development Plan. The health objectives for the local area can inform Development Plan policy and are one of a number of matters to which the policy will respond.

The Development Plan sets out how places should change and what they could be like in the future. It can identify areas where it is desirable for certain types of development or activity to take place, or not take place. As such, Development Plans could limit the number of food outlets in a particular area if there is reason to do so which is related to planning positively for the quality of place. However, it is not automatically assumed that two properties identified for food outlets will be twice as bad for the health of the local population than one. Decisions about the mix of shops and services in an area will generally be made with more than one objective in mind.

Example: A restriction on the number of restaurant and café type premises in a defined area might be applied to ensure that other uses such as shops, banks and hairdressers will continue to have a role in the area.

The Development Plan policies help to set out what kind of development is acceptable. The local authority will respond to planning applications based on the Development Plan. It is expected that proposals which accord with the Development Plan will be approved. It is, therefore, important for partners wanting to influence what development happens in an area to be involved in shaping the Development Plan policies.

Preparation and review of Development Plans - how to get involved

Development Plans are reviewed every five years. The Planning Authority will produce a Development Plan Scheme and a Participation Statement which identifies the various stages of the review process, including when and how people can get involved in the review. This provides an opportunity for evidence to be presented that the Development Plan could and should be prepared to respond to health consequences in different ways.

During the first stage of preparing a new plan, the local authority will talk to communities and local businesses to make a main issues report. This will set out their ideas about the different ways the area could change. It is important to get involved in preparing the plan at this point, when it is easier for the local authority to take account of new ideas.

The local authority will then prepare a proposed plan and make it public. Formal comments can then be submitted to the local authority. If as a result of comments made to a proposed plan there are matters which the planning authority cannot resolve, an examination of only those matters will be undertaken by a person, known as a Reporter, appointed by Scottish Ministers. Local authorities must take notice of the findings of the examination before adopting their local Development Plan.

You can look at the Development Plan schemes and the Development Plan on local authority websites. Paper copies of the Development Plan are available in local authority planning offices and libraries.

Deciding Planning Applications

The planning authority considers how well planning applications fit with the Development Plan policies. Planning authorities also consider 'material considerations' in deciding whether to approve or reject a planning application.

A material consideration is a planning issue which is relevant to the application and can include national policy, comments by the public and by organisations the local authority has consulted, the design of the proposed development, and the effect of the plan on the environment. The local authority must decide how important these material considerations are.

These material considerations can mean that a development is approved where it might be contrary to the Development Plan, or refused where it might otherwise have accorded with the Development Plan. It is for the planning authority to decide how much importance or 'weight' it will attach to Development Plan policies and material considerations in making a decision on a planning application. However, the Scottish Government's expectation is that in most instances the decision will be made in line with the Development Plan.

Use Classes and Permitted Development rights

In order to ensure that resources are focused on those applications which require it most, some more minor and less controversial types of development, including some changes of use, have been granted permitted development rights. This means that permission is already in place without the need to submit a planning application.

The Use Classes Order provides a number of groupings of uses (with each group known as a class). A change of use within each class is not considered to be development so no planning permission will generally be required.

Use Classes relevant to food are:

  • Class 1. Shops - including the sale of cold food for consumption off the premises;
  • Class 3. Food and Drink - the sale of food or drink for consumption on the premises;
  • Premises selling hot food mainly to be eaten off the premises are not grouped with any other uses and do not have a designated use class.

Permitted development rights are available for some changes of use between the individual classes. Class 3 uses can become Class 1 uses without the need for a planning application or permission. Therefore it can be expected that a café (Class 3) could become a sandwich bar (Class 1) without the need for planning permission to be sought. However, a sandwich bar (Class 1) becoming a café serving hot food for consumption within the premises (Class 3) would generally require planning permission. A sandwich bar (Class 1) becoming a hot food takeaway (which is not included in a class) would generally require planning permission. More detail on the range of permitted developments for change of use is available at:

The permitted development rights do not only include the food uses. A gift shop, for example, is in Class 1 and could be turned into a cold food takeaway (also Class 1) without generally requiring a planning application or permission.

It is important to remember that a change of use may not require planning permission where it is considered that the primary role of the existing use has not changed. For example a restaurant deciding to operate a minor takeaway service at the same time, may not require planning permission if it is considered that the takeaway role is not a significant business use in its own right. The decision on where the line between needing planning permission or not is for the planning authority to make in each case.

In addition, the Use Classes order only applies to the use of the property. If other changes are required to the shop front, for example, then planning permission for those changes may be required.

Creating Places

The planning system is about providing good places to live. Part of this relies on easy access to a range of goods and services. A variety of food outlets serve different needs and desires of resident populations. The food offer in an area is also important in making places attractive to go to at different times throughout the day.

There is no correct mix of uses and locations which create good places to live so the planning system must be flexible to local circumstances and reality of geography in the area. The Development Plan policies and decisions on individual applications provide for this in Scotland.


Email: Christopher Russell