UHI Shetland - Open the door to your future
Tuesday 16 July 2024
 11.4°C   SSW Light Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Education / Disappointment as expansion of free primary school meals delayed

Shetland North councillor Tom Morton.

A LOCAL Labour councillor says “disappointed doesn’t begin to cover it” after the Scottish Government’s full roll-out of free school meals for older primary children was pushed back to 2026.

Tom Morton, who represents Shetland North, said it was another delay from the “intellectually, morally and politically bankrupt SNP government”.

He previously voiced his support for universal free school meals across both primary and secondaries in Shetland.

The latest delay was revealed in the recently published programme for government for 2023 to 2024.

It said the Scottish Government would “work with COSLA in the coming year to prepare schools and infrastructure for the expansion of universal free school meal provision to Primary 6 and Primary 7 pupils during 2026, starting with those in receipt of the Scottish Child Payment and work with local authorities to ensure that school meals meet the highest standards of nutrition, recognising that this is vital to our children’s effective learning”.

The national roll-out to provide all primary children free meals was initially due to take place last year, but it was delayed.

At the moment all nursery and primary pupils up to and including P5 do not need to pay for their meals, with the Scottish Government funding this cost.

Morton said the latest delay was a “pretty mealy-mouthed way of punting it beyond the next Holyrood election”.

Barnardo’s, a charity which supports children and young people, also said it was disappointing that the roll-out had been delayed.

A spokesperson for the SNP said in response: “As set out previously, this will be a two-stage process that will see free school meals first extended to pupils whose families are in receipt of the Scottish Child Payment, before then extending to all children in primary school during 2026.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


“Under the SNP, Scotland has the most generous universal free school meal provision of any nation in the UK.

“All pupils in primaries one to five, all pupils in special schools and eligible pupils in Primary 6 through to S6 currently benefit, saving families an average of £400 per eligible child per year which makes a huge difference to families struggling with Westminster’s cost of living crisis.

“What a contrast to the UK Labour party – with Sir Keir Starmer seemingly ruling out universal free school meals as he ditches every progressive principle, sells out ordinary families and turns into a Tory tribute act.

Highlands & Islands MSP Emma Roddick. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

“While people in Scotland are rightly asking what the Labour party stand for, the SNP are continuing to take action to deliver for children and families across Scotland.”

Meanwhile the isles’ only SNP representative in the Scottish Parliament – Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick – said there is plenty in the programme which will benefit Shetland.

She said the Scottish Government’s intention to publish a plan of action to tackle housing in island, as well as rural, areas, will be “very welcome news”.

“The Scottish Government has already made clear its commitment to boosting housing available, especially for key workers, and this new plan will help to retain folk in their communities as well as attract new people to them,” Roddick said.

“By setting targets to build housing in rural and island communities, the Scottish Government is ensuring that the £752m it is investing this year will not simply go to increasing the sprawl of the central belt, but also to the places where a few homes make a huge difference.

“The cost-of-living crisis has hit family budgets hard and the Scottish Government is doing what it can to help. The commitment to funding an increase in childcare and expanding school meals will provide a much-needed boost of support for families across Shetland.

“Ferries are at the centre of island life, and the Scottish Government is committed to investing in services.

“We’ve already committed to freezing fares on the Northern Isles network, and with the upcoming fair fares review, we will see what further action can be taken to support those who use our ferries to ensure that they are affordable.”

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.