Scottish Labour has announced a plan to provide free meals for all school pupils during the summer holidays through the creation of summer catch-up clubs.
Scottish Labour’s summer catch-up club policy would be available to all primary and secondary pupils, and so would potentially benefit around 700,000 children currently enrolled in Scotland’s education system.
However, the party has calculated the cost of providing the service on the basis of an uptake rate of 10 per cent, meaning that the additional cost of providing summer holiday meal provision for high school pupils over the summer would be £4.5 million.
Holiday hunger: Scottish government to fund free meals over holidays
Around a quarter of children in Scotland live in relative poverty, and holiday hunger remains a serious issue.
Scottish Parliament election 2021: Labour's free meals pledge
The SNP has said it will provide free school breakfasts and lunches to all primary school pupils in Scotland, all year round, if re-elected in May.
In March it committed to introducing free meals for all primary pupils by August next year.
Pupils in early primary – P1-3 – already receive free school meals; P4s will become eligible this August; P5s in January 2022; and P6s and P7s will be eligible by August 2022.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said his ambitious policy would strike a blow against holiday hunger and child poverty, and give older pupils the same opportunities as their younger counterparts to access the support they need to recover from the pandemic and enjoy the summer.
He added: “This pandemic has thrown the existing inequalities in our society into sharp relief. Around a quarter of children in Scotland live in relative poverty – that is a scandal. And we know that while many children continue to enjoy daily nutritional meals throughout the summer, many are left to go hungry.
“By introducing summer meal clubs for all of Scotland’s school pupils, Scottish Labour will put the fight against child poverty and holiday hunger at the heart of our National Recovery Plan. We cannot, and we must not, return to the old inequalities after this pandemic. This ambitious policy can ensure that no child goes hungry over the summer holidays.”