Council / More parents to benefit from free school meals and higher clothing grants

COUNCILLORS shied away from moving towards implementing free school meals to all Shetland pupils and instead opted to increase clothing grants by 50 per cent while also aligning some payment criteria for free school meals to help low income families.

Following a lengthy debate at the education and families committee on Tuesday morning, councillors also agreed to consider increasing nationally set income ceilings for free meals and school grants to better reflect the high cost of living in Shetland.

A motion by councillor Stephen Leask to offer free school meals to all early years, primary and secondary pupils at an extra cost of £630,000 found some sympathy but no seconder.

Likewise, a move by councillor Tom Morton to implement free school meals for primary six and seven ahead of the Scottish Government doing so found no support.

The committee was discussing a range of options of how best to support families affected by the cost of living crisis.


The meeting heard from council leader Emma Macdonald that none of the options on table were affordable within existing council budgets and that any additional cost had to come from reserves.

Aligning the criteria for free school meals and the clothing grants is set to cost the SIC around £58,000 in lost income as a further 129 pupils will stop paying for their school meals.

The planned 50 per cent increase in clothing grants meanwhile should benefit 470 pupils at an additional cost of £28,330.

Morton said he could not support this way forward as it would have the potential to further stigmatising pupils accessing this support.

However, councillors felt even more uncomfortable with his proposal to implement free school meals for P6 and P7 pupils ahead of the Scottish Government doing likewise ahead of a national policy drive.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


Councillors will now be presented with a more detailed report on the implications of their decision with a view of making these changes early in the new year.

They will also hear on the options available to them around increasing benefits thresholds that would be more meaningful to circumstances in Shetland.

Councillor Neil Pearson, who initiated this aspect, described the current national ceiling of £17,005 as laughable and added that anybody in Shetland earning in the low £20,000 should be classed as having to live on a low income.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.