Every Primary School pupil will be eligible for free breakfast and lunch, all year round if the SNP are re-elected in May, John Swinney has announced.
Speaking at the SNP Annual Conference, the Deputy First Minister set out this latest step in the drive to tackle child poverty, with the programme being implemented from August 2022, making Scotland the first nation in the UK to offer universal free primary school meals.
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. Eligibility for breakfast varies from council to council.
Now, in the face of predictions that Tory welfare 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.
In his speech to conference, John Swinney said: “The callous cuts to welfare imposed by the Conservatives are bad enough.
“But we now face a tsunami of child poverty if the Tory Chancellor imposes a second wave of austerity. Scotland’s children cannot afford that.
“This is not just an issue for the very poorest. This is an issue for working families, forced to feed children from foodbanks or go hungry themselves.
“Right now, all P1 to P3 pupils are entitled to free school lunches. Given what I fear we are facing from the Tories, we will not leave a child at the mercy of a Tory Chancellor just because they are in P4, P5, P6 or P7.
“If elected next May, from 2022 we will extend universal free school lunches to all primary school pupils, P1 to P7.
“We want every child to have every chance to learn every minute of every school day, starting from the moment they arrive in class. So, we will also extend free provision of a healthy breakfast to all primary school pupils as well.
“But one of the lessons of 2020 is term-time isn’t enough. Hunger doesn’t take a holiday and so neither can we.
“If re-elected we will extend free school meals through every school holidays.
“All primary school pupils. All classes. All year round.
“That 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.”