SNP MSP Ruth Maguire has welcomed the announcement that every primary school pupil in North Ayrshire will be eligible for free school meals, all year around, if the SNP is re-elected in May.
Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, set out this latest step in the drive to tackle child poverty and make Scotland the first nation in the UK to offer universal free primary school meals at the SNP annual conference this weekend.
The SNP previously extended eligibility for a free school lunch to all P1 to P3 pupils while P4 to P7 pupils are eligible based on a range of income and benefits criteria.
Now, in the face of predictions that Westminster cuts will drive child poverty rates even higher, the expansion – estimated to cost around £230 million per year in additional expenditure – will introduce a free year-round breakfast and lunch for all primary school pupils from August 2022.
The MSP for Cunninghame South said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has put real financial pressure on families, and it’s right that the Scottish Government ensured that children in North Ayrshire would continue to receive free school meals over the holidays.
“But we will not stop there. If the SNP is re-elected in May, every single primary school pupil in North Ayrshire will be eligible for free breakfast and lunch, all year round.
“And unlike the Tories, we didn’t have to be publicly shamed and condemned into choosing to feed hungry children – that is the basic duty of any government.
“This ambitious expansion of the free school meals scheme is the next step in our battle to stop the Tories forcing more and more kids into poverty, support families, and make Scotland the best place to grow up.
“That progressive vision, underpinned by human rights, equality and wellbeing, is exactly why people in Scotland continue to put their faith in the SNP.”
The Scottish Government extended provision of free school meals to all P1 to P3 pupils in January 2015.
This has been fully funded through the provision of an additional £53.9 million revenue funding in all financial years since the policy was introduced as well as an initial £24.8 million of capital funding.
Currently, from P4 onwards, free school meals are available to children where their parents and carers are in receipt of prescribed qualifying benefits. A full list of criteria can be found at: https://www.mygov.scot/school-meals/
Current estimates suggest that the provision of free school meals saves families an average £400 per child per year.