The chaos engulfing Labour’s position on free school meals intensified today after it emerged that Labour-run West Dunbartonshire Council plans to end hot school meals on Fridays.
Earlier this week Labour leader Jim Murphy claimed that his party supported free school meals, despite his Education Spokesperson Iain Gray having attacked the policy in the press earlier that day – and Labour repeatedly voting against it in the Scottish Parliament.
West Dunbartonshire Council’s proposals are the latest demonstration of Labour’s lack of commitment to providing nutritious meals to school pupils and puts particular pressure on Shadow Cabinet member Jackie Baillie who has been challenged to make clear whether she backs her new leader or her council colleagues.
Introducing free school meals has been described by the Scottish Free School Meals Campaign – which includes organisations such as Save the Children, UNISON, EIS, STUC, Children in Scotland, Shelter Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group and Children 1st – as being a key measure in tackling poverty and promoting child welfare.
Commenting, SNP MSP George Adam who raised the issue at FMQs said:
“Earlier this week Jim Murphy claimed that Labour supported free school meals on the very same day that his education spokesperson was attacking the policy.
“He also claimed that Labour had eventually voted for the policy, despite Iain Gray making clear in last year’s budget debate that they did not support free school meals.
“Now we see that Labour West Dunbartonshire is cutting back on school meals at a time when they are being made available to more children.”
SNP MSP for Clydebank and Milngavie Gil Paterson added:
“West Dunbartonshire is one of the areas that is set to particularly benefit from free school meals, so this move by the council is particularly disappointing.
“As a local MSP for the area, Jackie Baillie must make her position on this clear. Does she support Jim Murphy when he says his party backs free school meals or is she on the side of those who want to cut this provision?
“Organisations such as Save the Children and the Child Poverty Action Group described free school meals as a key measure in tackling poverty, which makes Labour’s lack of consistent support even more baffling.
“What is abundantly clear from this ongoing chaos and inconsistency in the Labour party is that it is only the SNP who can be trusted to deliver for our children and protect free school meals for p1-3.”
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