The SNP has pledged to provide free breakfasts and lunches to all primary school children in Scotland all year round if re-elected next May.
Speaking at the party’s conference on Saturday, John Swinney, the deputy first secretary and education secretary, made the announcement and warned that Scotland was facing a “tsunami of child poverty” if Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, pushes ahead with a “second wave of austerity.”
If the SNP stick by their policy pledge it would make them the first nation in the UK to offer universal free primary school meals. The policy would be implemented from August 2022.
Mr Swinney said: “Just as we extended free meals through the holidays this year and next, if re-elected we will extend free school meals through every school holidays.”
The commitment came as he told the SNP conference how the Westminster government had “ignored” Scotland during the coronavirus crisis, rejecting pleas from Scottish ministers for the furlough scheme to be extended, with this only happening “when the economic problems of Covid hit the south of England”.
The deputy first minister, said the coronavirus pandemic had “shown us just how little financial security some families have”.
While he said the Scottish government had acted – citing the introduction of next year's £10-a-week Scottish child payment to poorer families – he also said more must be done.
He told the conference that if re-elected in May the SNP would make free breakfasts and lunches available to “all primary school pupils”, stressing this would apply to “all classes, all year round”.
Mr Swinney said: “That is the next step in our battle to stop the Tories forcing more and more kids into poverty.”
While children already receive free school meals in P1 through to P3, he said: “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.”
He continued: “We want every child to have every chance to learn every minute of every school day, starting from the moment they arrive in class.
“A child arriving at school hungry cannot learn as well as they should. So, we will also extend free provision of a healthy breakfast to all primary school pupils as well.”