Ban on snack vans was illegal

Burgers can once again be sold right outside school gates
Burgers can once again be sold right outside school gates

Snack van owners have won a legal battle to overturn a ban on them selling snacks to children near school gates.

Karen McCluskey, Stephen Kerr, Patricia Hardie, Annmarie Pratt and Caroline Kane took North Lanarkshire Council to court claiming their human rights and those of their customers had been infringed.

Council bosses believed banning snack vans from being within 250 metres of schools was a moral duty given major problems with childhood obesity across Scotland.

However at Hamilton Sheriff Court today Sheriff Vincent Smith ruled the ban is unlawful.

In a written judgement he said: “That obesity among the general population and children especially is considered problematic is not in dispute.

“That elected representatives wish to confront this problem and take steps to promote healthier lifestyles is to be commended. Neither of these is the issue in this case.

“The issue is whether the defender, as a licensing authority, has the power to impose this particular condition upon the licences of street traders. In my judgement it does not.”

Councillor Jim Logue, convener of Learning and Leisure Services, blamed decades old legislation for forcing the Sheriff’s hand and called for the Scottish Government to act.

He said: “Clearly we are very disappointed with the Sheriff’s decision. However, we are pleased he agreed that the primary motive in taking this decision was to address the ever increasing issue of child obesity

“Unfortunately, the primary legislation affecting the licensing of snack vans was enacted in 1982 and does not reflect current widespread concerns regarding health related challenges from poor diet and lack of activity.

“Childhood obesity is a recognised problem, not just in North Lanarkshire but across Scotland and I believe we have a duty to look after our pupils health.

“I’m now calling on the Scottish Government to take action and examine what can be done to tackle this issue. I will also be asking for a meeting with COSLA to determine what other options we have available to us.”