Scotland politics

Funding to double to meet childcare pledge

Child playing with letters Image copyright PA
Image caption The Scottish government had already pledged to double the amount of free pre-school education

Spending on childcare in Scotland would double if the SNP wins the next Holyrood election, the first minister has said.

Nicola Sturgeon has already pledged to double the number of hours of free care for three and four-year-olds from 16 to 30 hours every week.

She confirmed spending would increase from £439m this year to almost £880m.

Opposition MSPs have claimed there is not enough childcare available to meet the current 15 hours a week.

Pledging to double childcare provision for three and four-year-olds was one of the first policy announcements Ms Sturgeon made as SNP leader when she unveiled the plans at the party's conference in Perth last November.

Giving a speech at the David Hume Institute in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said spending on childcare was "one of the best investments any government can possibly make".

She said: "That's why I can confirm today my intention that spending on early learning and care will double over the course of the next parliament."

Parent survey

Earlier this month, a study by the Family and Childcare Trust said 15% of local authorities in Scotland had enough childcare for parents who worked full-time.

That was down from 23% when the survey was carried out in 2013.

Scottish Conservative young people spokeswoman Liz Smith welcomed the funding confirmation, but said more should have been done sooner.

She said: "No-one doubts the huge significance of the early years and the resulting duty of any government to make them a primary focus.

"But it is very likely that this new announcement is a direct response to the very revealing statistics that there simply aren't enough nursery and childcare places in Scotland despite the very firm promises made by the first minister and her predecessor eight years ago.

"The SNP is under huge pressure on this issue not least because so many parents are angry that they cannot source the nursery provision and childcare they want, and the first thing she should do is explain what this announcement means and where the money is coming from."

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