FREE SCHOOL MEALS FOR ALL PRIMARY SCHOOL PUPILS

“PROGRESSIVE VISION TO TACKLE POVERTY IN THE FACE OF TORY CUTS”

South Scotland MSP Emma Harper has welcomed the announcement that every primary school pupil across Dumfries and Galloway will be eligible for free school meals, all year around, if the SNP is re-elected in May.

Scotland’s 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 Scottish Government 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.

Commenting, Ms Harper said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has put real financial pressure on families, and it’s right that the Scottish Government ensures that children across Dumfries and Galloway will 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 across our region will be eligible for free breakfast and lunch, all year round. This will not be means tested and will therefore reduce any stigma around school meal provision.

“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 making 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 www.mygov.scot/school-meals/ <www.mygov.scot/school-meals/>

Current estimates suggest that the provision of free school meals saves families
an average £400 per child per year.