THE SCOTTISH Government has pledged to bridge the funding gap for school milk following the end of an EU subsidy in the UK.
It says it will step in with £722,000 this school year for local authorities across Scotland if the UK Government does not fund the scheme.
It means it is likely that a proposed price rise from 90p per pupil a week to £1.10 will no longer be sought by Shetland Islands Council.
The EU school milk subsidy is ending in the UK as the country leaves the European Union.
The last claim made by Shetland Islands Council for school milk was in July, and children’s services previously agreed that subsidisation of milk in schools would end in October.
A price rise to £1.10 to cover the extra cost following the end of the EU grant was set to be discussed by Shetland Islands Council’s eduction and families committee on Monday.
Before the item was due to be discussed by councillors, however, the Scottish Government announced it would provide the funding if its UK counterparts did not step in first.
When school milk was eventually discussed councillors were keen to see it back on the menu as soon as possible, and welcomed the funding news.
The loss of such a substantial regular order would also have been a serious blow to local cooperative Shetland Farm Dairies, which provides the milk.
A report to councillors said the milk in schools scheme started during the war, with local education authorities empowered to provide free milk from 1921.
In the late 1970s the European Economic Community School Milk Subsidy Scheme was launched.
Parents have had to make a financial contribution because the subsidy did not cover the full cost.
There is only a 41 per cent uptake of school milk in primary schools across Shetland, however, with around 600 litres of milk usually distributed to local schools a week.
Fair Isle, Foula, Fetlar and Ollaberry currently do not provide the opportunity for primary school week.
There is a choice as to whether a primary child wishes to take the school milk, and those who are on free school meals do not need to pay for milk.
Scottish deputy first minister John Swinney said: “Offering milk in schools provides an excellent source of nutrients for young people and helps to set up healthy eating habits.
“The withdrawal of the EU scheme threatens the ability of local authorities to provide subsidised milk in schools, running the risk that children and young people will miss out. It is another example of the detrimental financial impact of leaving the EU.
“We will continue to press the UK Government to make up the shortfall, but parents and local authorities can be assured we will not allow the school milk scheme to be lost.”
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