George speaks in the first debate after the referendum. First Minister Alex Salmond gave a statement to parliament regarding the referendum followed by a debate on his statement.
Families and young people across Renfrewshire and Scotland will benefit from additional support after First Minister Alex Salmond announced a significant expansion of free school meals and childcare provision.
As part of a £114 million package for young people over two years, every one of Scotland’s P1 to P3 children will have the option of a free meal in school from January next year, improving health and wellbeing, increasing attainment and saving families at least £330 a year for each child.
Speaking during a parliamentary debate on poverty and the early years, Mr Salmond also announced that free childcare provision would be expanded to every two year-old from a workless household in Scotland – around 8,400 children or 15 per cent of all two year-olds – by August this year.
It was about a year ago Labour-led Renfrewshire Council decided to scale back free schools meals delivered by the previous SNP Administration.
Despite Labour’s actions free schools will be restored and extended in Scotland and Renfrewshire.
Paisley MSP George Adam added;
“The SNP will fully fund this commitment to early years. Providing adequate resources for local authorities to deliver on this policy commitment will be crucial in ensuring implementation and success.”
“Labour set back free school meals in Renfrewshire, and it is down to the SNP to restore them. I’m sure parents and pupils will welcome this, and it would be foolish of Labour to oppose free school meals further.”
FREE school meals will be available to every pupil in Scotland during their first three years at primary school, First Minister Alex Salmond has announced.
The measure, which will be introduced from January next year, matches a scheme being brought in south of the border.
It is being funded with the extra money which will be received by the Scottish Government as a budget consequence of Westminster’s plans for schools in England.
During a debate on Scotland’s future at Holyrood, Salmond told MSPs that free meals in Scotland would be funded with £114million over the next two years, saving families at least £330 for each child.
“The announcements that we make today will have the greatest possible effect given the resources available to us,” Mr Salmond said.
“Under this Government, Scotland has made free meals available in every primary school to families which receive child and working tax credits. A step which hasn’t being taken in England and Wales, and which has contributed to 10,000 more pupils registering for free school meals.
“Now I am delighted to tell this chamber that we can go further. I can announce today that after discussions with our partners in local government, we will fund free school meals for all children in P1 to P3 from next January.
“That measure will build on and learn from the pilots we established in the five local authority areas in 2007/08.
“It will remove any possibility of free meals being a source of stigma during the first years of a child’s schooling, it will improve health and wellbeing, and will be worth crucially £330 each year for each child to families across the country.”
Mr Salmond also announced plans to further expand free childcare, starting with two-year-olds from the most deprived backgrounds.
From August this year, every two-year-old from a “workless” family will be entitled to 600 hours of free childcare, representing 15% of two-year-olds.
From August next year free childcare provision will be extended further, reaching 27 per cent of all two-year-olds, by widening the entitlement to families who receive certain welfare benefits such as income support.
The plans build on existing measures in Children and Young People’s Bill to provide free childcare to all two-year-olds in care.
“By August 2015, the overall level of free learning and care being delivered for two, three and four-year-olds in Scotland will exceed that which is promised elsewhere in the UK,” Mr Salmond said.
“These are important and immediate announcements, but they fall short, I readily admit, of the transformation that is required in Scottish society.
“We need to create a tax, welfare and childcare system that doesn’t plunge children into poverty as the UK Government is doing, that puts us on a par with the best childcare systems in the world.
“And that is why the future of Scotland’s children is the future of Scotland, and why Scotland’s future is an independent one.”
The Government said free school meals will cost £13million in 2014/15 and £42million in 2015/16. The expansion of childcare will cost £15million in 2014/15 and £44million in 2015/16.
The Scottish budget was boosted by an additional £308million in extra devolved spending following the UK Government’s Autumn Statement.
Mr Salmond said this funding was dwarfed by overall reductions in the Scottish budget.
SNP MSP George Adam said: “Opposition parties such as Labour say we will stop at nothing to get what we want.
“That’s true, we will stop at nothing to build a better future for the young people of Scotland, to give them hope and the vision that they can be everything they can be.
“That’s what we will stop at nothing to do, and an independent Scotland gives us the opportunity to create that.”
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