Stirling MP Alyn Smith and local Councillor Evelyn Tweed have welcomed the announcement that every primary school pupil in Stirling 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.
SNP MP Alyn Smith said:
‘Hunger is a detriment to learning and attainment for our young people. This torrid pandemic has put real financial pressure on families, and it’s only right that the Scottish Government has ensured children in the Stirling council area will continue to receive free school meals over the holidays.
‘But the job’s not done yet. If an SNP Government is returned in the upcoming Holyrood elections, they’ll seek to expand this scheme, for free breakfast and lunch all year round for every single primary school pupil. This is really welcome news, and demonstrates concrete action to tackle poverty and help our school children thrive.’
SNP Councillor Evelyn Tweed said:
‘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. It will support families, and help build a better Scotland that is the best place to grow up.
‘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.
‘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.