Ash Regan demands Scottish Government funds free school meals

ALBA Party Holyrood leader Ash Regan MSP has called on John Swinney to use cash freed up from the scrapping of the Bute House Agreement to fund free school meals for all school pupils.

The Scottish Government pledged to fund free school meals for all primary school pupils in 2021 but has failed to implement the required funding for local authorities.

Regan fears that if the Scottish Government fails to fully fund free primary school meals as promised, and extend them to high schools, further cost hikes at the start of the new school year will result in more pupils going hungry.

She said councils must receive extra cash “immediately” to fund free school meals for all primary pupils, with a committed timetable for extending universal free school meals for secondary school pupils.

She said:

“I urged the Government last year to scrap school meal debt – thankfully, they delivered, but cancelling accrued debt was only a small, short-term fix for struggling families.

"The cost of living crisis has made family finances increasingly insecure, so not all children can access means-tested free meals. Across Scotland, there is a postcode lottery for the cost of school meals – councils deliver the school meal policy, but the Government must ensure every child in Scotland has access to free, high-quality school meals.

“John Swinney has said that tackling child poverty is his top priority. I urge the First Minister to immediately provide a commitment to families that his Government will ensure that all Scotland’s children are entitled to free school meals.

“Thanks to the scrapping of the Bute House Agreement, money is now available to better focus on targeting poverty. Funding active travel is admirable, but it’s not as important as putting a roof over people’s heads or ensuring children don’t go hungry at school.

“John Swinney was education secretary, deputy first minister, and now First Minister – he must understand the link between poverty and educational outcomes.

"We know the cost of the school day only gets more expensive as children go to high school. What is his Government’s commitment to deliver on past promises for primary schools and extend free meals for all Scotland’s school children?”

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