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A hunger for free meals

Free school meals are supported by 40 per cent of participants in the BBC Scotland poll, who ranked the issue among their three chief priorities.

Although the policy is chiefly associated with Tommy Sheridan, the sole Scottish Socialist Party member in the last Parliament, whose free meals Bill was defeated, 43 per cent of Labour voters place it at the top of their agenda.

It may or may not be significant, therefore, that the ruling Labour group in Glasgow, which fears an electoral backlash from Mr Sheridan's party in the May council elections, has decided to commit itself to free meals for all primary pupils by 2007.

A paper in the name of Charles Gordon, Labour group leader on Glasgow City Council, said the cost of free meals for all pupils would be pound;7.5 million, compared with pound;4.5 million for primary pupils only.

Researchers for Mr Sheridan estimated that free school meals for all Scottish pupils would cost pound;174 million a year, which is less than 1 per cent of the Scottish Executive's pound;22 billion budget.

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