School meals must be protected, says MSP

SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Aileen McLeod has welcomed the First Minister’s announcement that provision of free school meals and early learning and childcare for the most disadvantaged children in Scotland will be protected by the Scottish Government following cuts to Tax Credits announced by the UK Government.

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 2 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.

Aileen commented: “Families in Scotland face a cut of nearly £700 million to tax credits as a result of the changes announced by Tory Ministers at Westminster. This won’t just have an impact on their income but will also affect the other support they are entitled to as a result.

“We believe that the provision of these services is key to ensuring every child gets the best start in life - that’s why the SNP will not allow the Tories to cut free school meal or childcare provision for the most disadvantaged children in Scotland.

“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 vital investment will ensure 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.”