The Tory position on free school meals leaves a bitter taste - Angus Robertson

Politics is about priorities, and the priorities of the Tories on free school meals has reminded everyone why they have they even described themselves as the ‘nasty party’.

By Angus Robertson
Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 11:47 am
The UK government has come under fire over the provision of free school meals during the pandemic
The UK government has come under fire over the provision of free school meals during the pandemic

Faced by a popular high-profile public campaign to make sure that all kids have nutritious food during the school holidays the Conservatives in England have blocked the move. Compare and contrast that with the government’s of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that have made it a priority and chosen to fund the meals for kids

The Scottish Government has made a £30 million package of funding available to local authorities to support people facing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This includes money to provide free school meals over the school holidays.

Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People Shirley-Anne Somerville is quite right when she says: “No one should be struggling to put food on the table, keep the lights on, or stay warm at home in the midst of this pandemic. With continuing uncertainty around Brexit and the furlough scheme being scaled back we are doing all we can to ensure the right support gets to people at the right time in the right way.

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The commitment has been greeted by Bill Scott, the Chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission: “We welcome this much needed additional help for low income families and individuals. The funding for Free School Meals during the Christmas, February and Easter breaks will come as a great relief for many hard pressed parents.

Compare and contrast this positive situation in Scotland with the disgraceful decision by Boris Johnson and colleagues to resist the campaign led by Manchester United star Marcus Rashford. With his support around one million people have signed his parliamentary petition calling for the UK government to “support vulnerable children & #endchildfoodpoverty by implementing 3 recommendations from the National Food Strategy to expand access to Free School Meals, provide meals & activities during holidays to stop holiday hunger & increase the value of and expand the Healthy Start scheme”

Unbelievably Scottish Tory MPs voted against free school meals in England and their leader Douglas Ross abstained, even though the measure would have helped hungry kids during the Covid crisis and would provide additional consequential funds for Scotland.

The Tory excuses were all over the place. Ross claims he is in favour of free school meals, but wasn’t in Westminster and hadn’t organised a proxy vote. He said he now abstains on England only business, however whenever there are financial consequentials involved for Scotland they are not England only matters.

The gulf between the public mood and the Tories is wide and widening even further. In contrast the public believe that the Scottish Government and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have the right priorities. Last week a supersized poll by Survation for Progress Scotland found that 71 per cent think the Scottish government is empathetic but 80 per cent think the UK government is not.

No wonder support for Scottish independence is at a record high. Why should Scotland be run by a party that Scotland has not voted for since 1955 which opposes giving hungry children healthy food?