You should know by now that I’ll always give credit when I think it’s due. The SNP did a good thing the other day. At their party council meeting in Aberdeen, they passed policy on incorprating the World Health Organisation’s International Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes into Scottish law. This is something that could really make a difference, in conjunction with many other measures, in increasing the poor breastfeeding rates in Scotland. Last year I wrote about a UNICEF report which talked about how increasing breastfeeding could save the NHS a small fortune and tackle inequality too.
So, Nick Clegg, forget the novel tonight. Read this report before you go to sleep and get to work championing breastfeeding in the same way that you have parental leave and mental health. This has the potential to change a lot of lives for the better, to make our mothers and children healthier, to reduce inequality and all the while save us money.
This is the motion that the SNP passed on Saturday:
SNP HEALTH AND WELL BEING POLICIES
Council notes that Scotland has one of the lowest rates of Breastfeeding in Europe with only 22% of babies being exclusively breastfed at 6 weeks. Norway has 99% of babies at birth receiving breast milk and 80% still getting some breast milk at 6 months.
Council notes that Norway has adopted the World Health Organisation Code on the marketing of breast milk substitutes into law and ensured that babies, young children and parents are not exposed to inappropriate advertisement of products that undermine the normal way to feed a baby.
National Council urges the SNP to adopt the WHO code fully into policy and enact it upon gaining independence in order to protect babies who are breastfeeding and those that are fed on infant formula.
There are plenty people in other parties who would happily support a similar policy. I think part of the independence debate is deciding what sort of Scotland we want to see – and find a way of delivering it whatever the outcome next year. Currently the decision on implementing the Code is reserved to Westminster. I don’t see why it should be. We have different regulations on the sale of cigarettes and alcohol, so why not formula? Why not try to get all parties to reach a consensus on this? Now, I doubt you’d ever get the Tories on side. They are not ones for impeding big business. It wouldn’t be unrealistic for Labour, Lib Dems, Greens and SNP to make a joint case for this to happen regardless of our constitutional future.
No matter whether we’re independent or part of the UK, you had better believe that formula manufacturers would kick off big time at the first sign of this being brought in. It would be like the Scottish Whisky Association on minimum pricing only noisier and with even less legal substance to its case.The best way to withstand that is with a strong consensus across and beyond politics that this is the right thing to do. It’s not impossible, though, and definitely worth it in the long run.
We are more than capable of grown-up politics in Scotland and what issue could be more important than the health of all our babies? Let’s work together to make the case for this change.