Around 4,000 children in North Ayrshire will benefit from an SNP Scottish Government initiative to expand the provision of free school meals.
The SNP’s majority in parliament saw legislation passed last week that will provide a nutritious meal for every pupil in the first three years of primary school. Labour and Tory MSPs voted against the proposal.
Welcoming the £114million package to deliver free school meals and an expansion to childcare provision, local MSP Margaret Burgess said, “Every one of Scotland’s P1 to P3 children will have the option of a free meal in school from January next year. Across North Ayrshire, around 4,000 children are eligible to benefit from the initiative.
“This marks a major step forward and will improve health and wellbeing, it will increase attainment in our schools, and it will save families at least £330 a year for each child.”
Mrs Burgess, MSP for Cunninghame South, added, “At a time of Westminster-imposed tax credit and benefit cuts, rising food and energy prices and minimal or no pay rises, this new Scottish Government help will be welcomed by parents and carers.
“As part of the package, free childcare provision will be extended to every two year-old from a workless household in Scotland – that’s around 8,400 children or 15 percent of all two year-olds – by August this year.
“Next year the free childcare entitlement will be extended to families receiving Jobseekers Allowance and certain other benefits, which will help the families of a further 15,400 children or 27 percent of all 2-year-olds.”
Margaret Burgess, also the Scottish Government Minister for Housing & Welfare, condemned the actions of Labour MSPs who sided with the Tories against the new initiatives. “These Labour MSPs will have to explain to people how their vote against free school meals and additional childcare provision could possibly have been in the interests of local children and their parents,” said Mrs Burgess, adding, “The SNP Government announcements will have a significant effect, given the limited resources available to us, but much more can be done with a ‘YES’ vote in this year’s referendum, which will ensure Scotland gets the full financial freedom of independence, allowing us to make transformational change in the country.”