Trade union chief demands John Swinney takes action on free school meals

Scotland’s most senior trade union official has called for John Swinney to start tackling child poverty by keeping his party’s promise on free school meals.

Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) leader Roz Foyer said without progress, Swinney won’t be able to eradicate child poverty which he said is the single most important aim of his government.

Currently, only P1 to 5 kids receive free lunches while the government has promised to offer them to P6s and 7s.

The Sunday Mail has been campaigning for the government to go even further and give all children, including secondary pupils, a free lunch.

In a letter to Swinney sent on Friday, Foyer said: “As you will be aware, it was a manifesto commitment of your party that the Scottish Government would implement universal free school meals for every primary pupil across the country.

“This has not been realised along with a commitment to pilot universal free school meals in secondary schools. This policy has been subject to obfuscation and delay.

“Through delaying this policy, the Scottish Government is repeatedly letting down pupils who ask for nothing more than help and support when they need it most.”

Foyer said: “It’s inexplicable that, yet again, we’re here making the same call to the Scottish Government to implore them to get on with something they, by their own admission, should have ­delivered by now.

“Child hunger is a scourge. It is also entirely avoidable.

“We welcome the new First Minister’s intention to use the full economic powers of the Scottish Government to reduce poverty. Feeding the school pupils of Scotland, as they promised they would do, is the ideal way to start.”

The Sunday Mail has helped to organise a Holyrood summit on free school meals delivery which Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth is due to attend on Wednesday.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scottish Government policies such as the Scottish Child Payment will keep an estimated 100,000 children out of poverty this year.

"We are investing this year to extend free school meals to children in primaries 6 and 7 whose families receive the Scottish Child Payment.”

Don't miss the latest news from around Scotland and beyond - Sign up to our daily newsletter here.