Free meals for all Scots primary pupils 'will go ahead'

time:2023-06-03 01:29:35source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation) author:Press center6

The Scottish government will meet its pledge to provide free school meals for all primary school children, the deputy first minister has said.

Shona Robison said the full rollout that had been due to happen last 2022 will include P6 and P7 pupils by 2024.

But she confirmed a plan for universal free meals in secondary schools would have to be looked at again.

It comes after the first minister warned "tough choices" needed to be made about existing budgets.

Humza Yousaf said on Tuesday that future Scottish government spending plans would be targeted at those most in need.

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme, Shona Robison backed Mr Yousaf's call for targeted spending to be effectively aimed at reducing poverty.

She said there was "no question" that the commitment to free school meals for P6 and P7 pupils would go ahead.

But she added that "resources are tight and we need to make difficult decisions".

"That is where the issue and question of targeting comes in," Ms Robison said.

"With the resources to roll out free school meals in secondary schools, would it be better targeted to support, for example, breakfast clubs or pre-clubs to make sure that children who are from the poorest families are actually getting three meals a day instead of one at lunchtime."

Ms Robison said the government could not and would not ignore the fact that many families were struggling to feed their children.

"We need to make sure that, within the limited resources we have, that money is being spent in the most effective way and that is what we're doing," she said.

Universal free school lunches have been extended to children in P4 and P5 since the SNP retained power in the May 2021 election, saving families an average of £400 a year.

Bruce Adamson, the Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland, welcomed the deputy first minister's commitment to free meals for all primary pupils.

But he said the policy did not go far enough.

"When we are talking about something as basic as food, we know that a universal approach is effective," he said.

"We know that a targeted approach to free school meals means that some people miss out.

"Secondary pupils will be shocked that the Scottish government is reconsidering."

Scottish Labour MSP Paul O'Kane accused Humza Yousaf of "jettisoning promises" just weeks into his new job as first minister.

He said: "There is hidden hunger in schools.

"The government have committed to free school meals from primary one to seven and haven't delivered it yet."

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