Norma Watson, a former president of the Educational Institute of Scotland, attacked the administration of the scheme across four pilot councils as a "waste of money". Up to 1,800 nursery places could have been provided instead.
Mrs Ritchie replied that administration charges for each Pounds 1,100 voucher came to Pounds 10. The scheme was designed to increase nursery places, and more than 150 centres had been accredited to take part, of which 64 are schools. Forty-two are new bases in schools.
Janet Law, SNP spokeswoman on education, said it was important to look at the whole area of early years education, including child care, and urged a statutory responsibility on authorities.