27/11/2008

Free School Meals For Scottish Kids

The Scottish Parliament is expected to pass a Bill that will allow local authorities to supply free meals to primary school children.

Councils will be able to provide dinners to kids during their first three years of education, in a scheme that could be rolled out by 2010.

MSP are due to vote in favour of the legislation, which was formulated after several pilots across Scotland received a reasonable take-up.

However, Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats said councils were not being given the cash they needed to put the policy fully into action.

The government has insisted the scheme is covered under the councils' funding settlement.

Questions have been raised by opposition politicians as to the real impact such a free meal system would have on poverty.

Children's Minister Adam Ingram accepted some councils faced "exceptional pressures" which had caused them to express concern about the policy.

According to Mr Ingram, £30m will be pumped into the scheme from 2010 through the local government settlement, ensuring full funding.

The legislation will not force councils to provide free meals.

It is expected the Bill will be passed by the full parliament.

(PR)

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