P1-3 pupils to receive free school meals


First Minister Alex Salmond announced the extension of free school meals to all pupils in the first three years of Scottish primary schools.

The announcement, which matches a plan being introduced in England, came as MSPs debated Scotland's future on 7 January 2014.

165,000 children in the three early years will be offered free school meals by January in 2015.

The proposals will be funded by cash transferred to Scotland through the Barnett Formula, as a consequence of the English plan.

Mr Salmond also announced the expansion of childcare provision to every two year-old from a workless household in Scotland by August this year, with a further increase by August 2015.

The measures fell short of the full "transformation required" according to the first minister which he said could only be delivered with a yes vote in the independence referendum.

He said: "The future of Scotland's children is the future of Scotland, and that's why Scotland's future is an independent one".

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said free school meals would not be her priority at the moment which should be going further on childcare provision.

Ms Lamont's amendment called for the SNP to "deliver for children now, including providing 50% of two-year-olds with 600 hours of free early learning and care in 2014".

She said: "Rather than help families now he chooses the false offer of a referendum."

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the Scottish government had been "embarrassed into delivering coalition policy on school meals".

Ms Davidson added the SNP could have delivered its pledge to revolutionise childcare in any one of the nearly seven years it had been in power "but has chosen not to because separation is more important to them than Scotland's working parents".

However Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who has repeatedly called for an extension of childcare provision for two year-olds, welcomed both plans on free school meals and child care.

Part two of the debate can be viewed here: Scotland's Future debate 2

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