Five Scottish food myths that need to be busted now

Contrary to the views of some, Scotland is not a nation of haggis-munching, Irn-Bru swilling junk food addicts. We break down the most egregious Scottish food myths

Published 11th Dec 2015
Updated 12 th Sep 2023

Glasgow is the junk food capital of Scotland

Actually, it's Livingston. A study conducted in June 2015 puts the West Lothian town at the top of the league for fast food chains – with one for every 3,517 inhabitants, while Glasgow, the well-documented “sick man of Europe,” placed third (after Hamilton), with one outlet per 4,230 people. Edinburgh was in seventh place, and Aberdeen took tenth and last, with one fast food joint per 8,481 people.

Livingston has the highest concentration of McDonald's branches, with one per 18,756 people compared with Glasgow’s one to 27,115, and is home to 56,269 people, three McDonald’s, one Burger King, one KFC, three Subways, four Greggs and a Domino’s. Glasgow does retain the dubious honour of having the largest overall number of fast food outlets of any Scottish city, at 141, in line with its having the largest population.

You have to be Scottish to like Irn-Bru

IRN-BRU 2 (1)

While the fact that Irn-Bru outsells Coca-Cola in Scotland is a small but potent source of pride for Scots – it's one of only four regions where this is the case, the other three being India, Peru and across the Middle East – you don't have to be Scottish to understand the appeal. Irn-Bru is in fact the third best-selling drink in the whole of the UK, after Coke and Pepsi, with half of total UK sales coming from England and Wales.

Makers AG Barr credit the opening of a factory in Milton Keynes in 2013 for increased sales south of the Border. Scotland's other national drink is also produced under licence in Russia, Canada, the US and Norway. Its export markets include Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, Spain, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Gibraltar, Poland, Ireland, Belgium, Malta, Iceland and parts of the Middle East – there's even a rip-off available in South Africa named Iron Brew and manufactured by none other than Coca-Cola.

Actual Scots eat deep-fried Mars bars

You could be forgiven for thinking these are a mere figment of lifestyle journalists' imagination, so rare is a sighting of them in the real world in comparison to the frequent mentions they merit on news websites (much like this one).


It is almost guaranteed that any Scot who has actually eaten a deep-fried Mars bar did so in the company of a tourist, or when blind drunk and staggered to see this mythical creature in reality, in one of the roughly five chip shops in the country that actually sell them.

The west Highland hotel with 'Scotland's best restaurant' and access to tranquil island

Salt 'n' sauce is the great arbiter of the Edinburgh/Glasgow rivalry

Loyalty to the sepia nectar is not actually a guarantee of an Edinburgh provenance or residence – chippies all over Fife and East and West Lothian serve it too. It has even been spotted as far south as the Borders. As such it does remain, however, a reliable indicator of whether someone is an East or West Coaster. And while we're on the subject, the recipe itself is no great mystery: brown sauce plus vinegar.

Edinburgh Chip Shop

Reportedly around 95 per cent of Edinburgh chop shops use Gold Star brown sauce to make theirs – manufactured by Walter Black Foods in Cambuslang, in the decidedly salt 'n' vinegar territory of South Lanarkshire.

Haggis is a mysterious concoction of world-beating, unspeakable horror

Scotland's first official 'Tartan Army Pie' for Euro 2024 launched by prize family bakers

It's oatmeal, onion, suet and spices mixed with, yes, offal – sheep's heart, liver and lungs – encased in the sheep's stomach.

Haggis, neeps and tatties.

Haggis, neeps and tatties.

But is that really any more terrifying than the frog's' legs, bull's testicles, maggot cheese, rotting fermented fish and pig's blood pancakes enjoyed across the EU? No, it is not.

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