DOCTORS want Scotland to be more like Mexico by slapping a tax on sugary drinks and spending the money raised on child health initiatives.

Mexicans and Americans came out as the only people fatter than Scots in a survey of 17 countries and experts warn that more needs to be done to tackle our “obesity epidemic”.

Obesity is rising to the point where being overweight “may now be seen to be the norm”, but the associated healthcare costs are spiralling, according to the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

A 10 per cent tax on sugary drinks in Mexico is thought to have contributed to 10 per cent drop in sales, Liverpool University chairman of clinical epidemiology Simon Capewell told a forum in Edinburgh yesterday.

He said: “The successful introduction of sugar taxes in countries as diverse as Finland, France, Hungary, Latvia, the USA and Mexico have shown how effective a measure they can be in reducing consumption.

“Furthermore, the revenues raised can then be invested back into initiatives to increase children’s health in these countries, as is happening in Mexico.

“It is now time to move forward on introducing a tax on sugary drinks in the UK as a central component of preventing the continuing escalation of obesity and spiralling healthcare costs."

He added: “Scotland has an excellent track record in addressing public health issues. Notable achievements include smoke-free public places and proposals for minimum unit pricing for alcohol. We need to explore how these developments could be repeated with sugary drinks.

“The medical profession has learned valuable lessons from two centuries of public-health successes and it is clear that a duty on sugary drinks can play a vital role, alongside preventable interventions targeting the “3As” – affordability, acceptability and availability.”

Professor Derek Bell, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said: “Food and drink taxes are an important part of the discussion on obesity and public health more widely.

“The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh is committed to playing a central role in this debate and has established its own health and wellbeing programme aimed at encouraging healthy lifestyles for all through promoting healthy choices.

“The college also recently supported the Responsible Retailing of Energy Drinks campaign and the City of Edinburgh Council’s decision to remove energy drinks – many of which have high sugar content – from Edinburgh Leisure venues.

“Only by systematically addressing these issues in the round can further progress be made.”

One Scottish school has taken the lead in tackling childhood obesity, and others are now taking up the challenge as a result of its success.

St Ninian’s Primary School in Stirling has a unique approach to children’s fitness and obesity that has attracted national and international praise from healthcare experts.

The school pioneered the daily mile three-and-half years ago.

The whole school, from nursery to primary seven, run or walk a mile each day around the school’s track, which is affectionately known as the Yellow Brick Road. Since then, many other areas have followed suit.

Last month head teacher Elaine Wyllie presented the initiative to medical health experts from across the world at the annual Institute of Healthcare Improvement conference, on behalf of 100 Million Healthier Lives.

In her keynote speech, she described the daily mile as an exemplary way of transforming children’s health and wellbeing. Wyllie also recently gave a presentation on the initiative at a Raising Attainment for All event.

Last year Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Aileen Keel visited the school to see the daily mile in action and said it was such a successful means of tackling obesity in youngsters that it should be happening everywhere.

Wyllie said the daily mile had been an outstanding success and was popular with children, parents and staff. She said: “The children run or walk one mile, or 15 minutes, every day, in almost all weather. There is no need for equipment or even a change of clothes, and there have been clear improvements in their fitness and focus in the classroom. They come back in from their daily mile red-cheeked and puffed-out, having exercised in the fresh air. The benefits are there to see.

“The school nurse recently reported that there are no overweight primary ones in the school. We think this could be because the children have been participating since nursery.”

The school’s running club has enjoyed considerable success locally and nationally, and its numbers are growing all the time.

Stirling Council's Head of Education David Leng added: “It’s great to see the children embracing this initiative.

“We’re hopeful it will become a lifelong habit and reinforce the many benefits of fitness.”