For many years Scotland has been known in public health circles as 'the Sick Man of Europe'. Scotland's high prevalence of smoking and alcohol misuse became the stuff of comic caricature. Its diet was almost legendary in its alleged awfulness. Unlike other parts of the UK, the devolution settlement presented Scotland with a Parliament with primary legislative powers. It is instructive, given the above background in terms of Scotland's ill health and the devolution of powers, to examine a number of pieces of actual or proposed public health legislation and to compare and contrast what motivated their proposal and what has governed their progress. Of course Scotland's policy response to its challenging health status goes beyond legislation. Turning to the future, there is clearly a need for additional capacity building within public health and recent progress in terms of building multidisciplinary capacity through the employment of public health practitioners and public health colleagues within local authorities will be further progressed.