Tuesday, 17 December 2013

First Minister asked to deliver on free school meals pledge

First Minister Alex Salmond was today asked to make sure all primary one to three pupils receive a free healthy school lunch.

Unions, churches and children's organisations joined together in the call for the Scottish Government to deliver on earlier pledges.

UNISON is a signatory to the letter to Mr Salmond, which is below.

See reports on STV, Real Radio and in The Herald today, and last week's news release.

                                                                                                17th December 2013
Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond MSP
First Minister
Scottish Government
St. Andrew's House
Regent Road

Free School Lunches

Dear First Minister,

As you will be aware there is growing belief, and expectation, that your government must now grasp the current opportunity it has to deliver on its long standing free school lunch ambitions and commitments. As children’s charities, anti-poverty campaigners and unions representing teachers, caterers and working parents we have welcomed the progress that your governments have made on widening access to free healthy lunches as part of efforts to tackle the health, education and child poverty barriers that prevent too many of our children from enjoying the best possible start in life. Nevertheless it has been a matter of real concern and disappointment that, to date, the roll out of free school meals to all pupils in P1 to P3, as announced by the Scottish Government in 2007, and reaffirmed in 2010, has not yet been implemented.
We have previously written to the Deputy First Minister and your Cabinet Secretaries for Education, Health and Finance (23 September 2013) highlighting the opportunity created by the UK government’s announcement that all children in the first three years of English primary school will now receive a free school lunch from September 2014. We were delighted that your Education Secretary  responded and agreed with our “collective view that children, particularly those in poverty, would benefit now and in terms of their future health from having access to a free healthy meal at school”.

We were at that time advised by the Education Secretary that the UK government had been unable to provide your government  with confirmation that there will be consequential funding arising from its intention to deliver free school lunches in the first three years of primary in England, but had “indicated that full details would be revealed in the Chancellor's autumn statement,” and that only “only when we see the financial implications for Scotland…..can we then determine how best to further increase eligibility”.

We understand that as a result of the Autumn Statement the Scottish Government is to receive £308 million extra spending resource. Whilst we understand that this is in the broader context of previous cuts to the Scottish Budget, it does create a huge opportunity for your government to prioritise investment in support for children at a time when families are being increasingly and disproportionately hard hit by UK tax and benefit policies and rising food and energy prices.  

Investing in a free healthy school lunch for all pupils in P1 to P3 would provide a well evidenced, direct and immediate boost to the wellbeing of children and families across Scotland. As our attached briefing highlights a universal approach in the early years has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on the take up of healthy school lunches, on children’s readiness to learn and attainment, and on supporting family budgets and home life. Such an investment would also:

·         support the Scottish Government’s work to enhance the quality and impact of school food provision;

·         support jobs in the wider food industry by  increasing the scale of catering contracts;

·         make an important contribution to mitigating the impact of UK welfare reform (set to remove £2billion a year from Scottish family budgets by 2015);

·         support the Scottish Child Poverty Strategy by maximising families disposable incomes and improving children’s wellbeing, and;

·         contribute to reducing the educational attainment gap by removing a significant cost barrier to full participation at school.

We do hope your government now has the necessary financial information you need to enable you to prioritise Scottish Government resources to deliver on the promise of free school lunches for all P1 to P3 pupils. We urge you to confirm at the earliest opportunity  that your government will now take this opportunity to provide this much needed support to children and families across Scotland. 

In the meantime we would be more than happy to discuss any aspect of this letter and attached briefing and would be very pleased to meet with you or your Ministers to discuss this in more detail.

Yours sincerely,

Grahame Smith                                            Sally Foster-Fulton             

STUC                                                            Church of Scotland            

Larry Flanagan                                             Dave Watson

Educational Institute of Scotland                  UNISON Scotland


Graeme Brown                                             Neil Mathers                                    

Shelter Scotland                                          Save the Children

Satwat Rehman                                          Jackie Brock            

One Parent Families in Scotland                Children in Scotland          


Anne Houston                                              Peter Kelly    

CHILDREN 1ST                                            Poverty Alliance


John Dickie

CPAG in Scotland

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