Western Isles MSP, Alasdair Allan, has welcomed the First Minister’s announcement that free school meals, early learning, and childcare for the most disadvantaged children in Scotland will be protected following cuts to tax credits announced by Westminster.
Seven hundred children in the Isles currently benefit from a free school meal, with many qualifying because of their tax credit status.
The Scottish Government has estimated that as a result of cuts to tax credits 22,000 children between 3 and 15 years old in Scotland will lose their entitlement to free school meals. The cuts will also mean that 2,000 two-year-olds will no longer be eligible for either free school meals or early learning and childcare.
This comes as reports suggest UK Government are considering scrapping universal free school meal provision in England.
Commenting, Alasdair Allan said:
“School lunches are hugely important in supporting a pupil’s ability to learn and free school meals play an important role in improving attainment in schools, through offering children healthy and nutritious lunches that will help them achieve their best in class.
“Entitlement in Scotland to free school meals is, apart from in primary one to three where it is universal, tied in to parents’ receipt of tax credits. The decision of Tory Ministers at Westminster to cut tax credit entitlements affects different forms of support they are entitled to as well as reducing their overall income.
“We believe that it is vitally important to provide free school meals to children who need them to ensure that they get the best start in life. We will continue to support the 700 children in the Isles who receive school meals, as well as all of those children who receive childcare and early learning.
“Under the SNP, free early learning and childcare provision has already been increased by 45 per cent and the First Minister has pledged that if re-elected the number of hours provided will be doubled. This is vital to ensuring that we support more parents into work and improve the life chances of our children.
“By contrast, the Tories are undertaking a relentless attack on our social security system and are considering yet more draconian cuts - including cutting free school meals in England. They should scrap these damaging plans which would have an impact on the budget available to the Scottish Government to protect the poorest in Scotland.
“With the powers at its disposal the Scottish Government is mitigating the worst impacts of the Tories welfare cuts. The Scotland Bill must be amended to give the Scottish Parliament full powers over social security to ensure we are no longer at the mercy of a Tory Chancellor in Downing Street intent on dismantling the welfare state.”