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  By G.A.Ponsonby

A row has broken out between the SNP and Scottish Labour after it emerged Johann Lamont’s Holyrood group had voted against a motion aimed at providing primary schoolchildren with free school meals.

The bitter war of words erupted after First Minister Alex Salmond announced the Scottish Government was extending its current free school meals package to include all children in Primaries 1 through to 3.  Also included in the announcement were plans to extend free childcare.

Despite Scottish Labour previously signalling support for both policies, Ms Lamont’s Holyrood group of MSPs voted against the plans.

In a statement issued this evening, the SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing accused Scottish Labour of adopting a “narrow partisan agenda” and said:

“In their determination to attack everything proposed by the SNP, they ended up voting against policies which they themselves have claimed to support.

“Labour MSPs were seen discussing how they would vote right up until the end of the debate, which ended in farce with Drew Smith desperately pretending in a point of order that Labour weren’t voting against free school meals.

“But that is of course exactly what they were doing – and now they have to explain their actions to the coalition of charities which has campaigned for this policy.

“I was proud to vote for the rollout of healthy free school meals to all children in Primaries 1 to 3, and a significant expansion of childcare provision.

“Labour’s shambolic actions today show once again that only the powers of independence offer us the chance to build on this to make a truly transformational change.”

However Scottish Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale defended Scottish Labour’s decision and insisted the party had not voted against free school meals but were in fact opposing independence, which had been included in the Scottish Government motion.

The motion by First Minister Alex Salmond insisted that independence was the only way to ensure that extra tax receipts from revolutionary childcare, outlined in the white paper, remained in Scotland and that it was “vital to achieve the transformation in childcare that Scotland needs and for child poverty to be finally eradicated”.

An amendment by Johann Lamont had praised the Labour party and devolution.  It also claimed “child poverty has stalled in Scotland under the current administration”.

As part of a £114 million package announced by Mr Salmond, every one of Scotland’s P1 to P3 children will have the option of a free meal in school from January next year, improving health and wellbeing, increasing attainment and saving families at least £330 a year for each child.

Free childcare provision will be expanded to every two year-old from a workless household in Scotland – around 8,400 children or 15 per cent of all two year-olds – by August this year.

And by August next year, free childcare provision will be extended further, reaching 15,400 children – 27 per cent of all two year-olds – by widening entitlement to families that received certain welfare benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The row followed accusations by Labour MSPs that the SNP had the wrong priorities and that free school meals would not tackle child poverty.  However it has emerged that in 2007, Labour MSP and former Minister Rhona Brankin highlighted the link between deprivation and obesity and asked about entitlements to free school meals being extended to further address child poverty.

Arguing against free school meals, Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale had also previously questioned whether there was evidence that free school meals improved educational attainment for the most disadvantaged kids.

However in another blow to Scottish Labour’s arguments against the policy, Newsnet Scotland can reveal that in 2010 Labour leader Ed Miliband acknowledged there was, “a strong case for universal free school meals.  It makes a big difference in terms of nutrition.  It makes a big difference in terms of concentration in classrooms.”

It also emerged that in 2010, just before the UK General election, the last Labour Government supported universal free school meals when then Education Secretary, Ed Balls, handed over £1.6m in funding to Labour controlled Islington council.

Mr Balls said: “Thanks to local pressure, Islington is going to get the chance of free, healthy lunches in primary schools. If this shows, as I believe it does, that it’s not only popular with parents but raises standards and health among our children, I would love to see it extended as far as possible across the country.”

Trades unions have also spoken out in favour of the Scottish Government’s policy.  Speaking in 2008, Dave Watson, Unison’s Scottish organiser, said: “Unison has long argued on health and poverty grounds that we should be providing free school meals for all children.”

Comments  

 
# darrener 2014-01-07 23:21
From Keir Hardy to Laurel and Hardy.
 
 
# MajorBloodnok 2014-01-08 10:26
Excellent. darrener – with your permission, I would like to use this phrase in everyday conversation.
 
 
# willie boy 2014-01-07 23:31
What is it about Labour leadership that makes them the same as the Tories.

Is it the policies to introduce tuition fees, raise the council tax, reintroduce prescription tax, remove senior travel cards, or stand against free school
meals

Well Alistair Darling attending Tory conferences and being Cameroons man in Scotland might give a clue.
 
 
# alanski 2014-01-07 23:40
Hilarious, these Labour fools have indeed lost the plot. Don’t look to closely in the mirror Johann, you might not like what you see…
 
 
# bringiton 2014-01-08 00:00
The purpose of the British Labour party in Scotland is to oppose anything which is proposed by a Scottish government.
They cannot appear to accept any policy which diverges from that laid down by London (no matter who is in charge in London).
Labour supporters in Scotland need to ask themselves if these elected representatives are really doing the job they were supposed to do or are dancing to someone else’s tune.
Lamont and her colleagues stopped any pretence of looking after the interests of their constituents a long time ago.
We need to refresh our democracy and get rid of the London apparatchiks.
 
 
# Ryan 2014-01-08 22:55
you are 100% correct. The sad thing is Lamont is actually a good MSP when it comes to her constituency, with many praising her help.

She isn’t going to be a force for anyone is she continues to toe the (labour) party line
 
 
# ds12 2014-01-08 06:47
Just when you think they can’t get any worse they do. And the really really sad thing is that a byelection is coming up and they are likely to win that as people blindly go in and make their X or give their postal vote to the labour party.
 
 
# cardrossian 2014-01-08 08:13
Of course they will. The by-election is in Fife which for those of you too young to remember is the only place in Britain ever to elect a Communist to Westminster.

Totally mindless, but we can but hope that this time they prove me wrong
 
 
# Angus 2014-01-08 07:38
Labour in Scotland are hate and bile filled, Lamont is a seriously bad politician, yet she is debater of the year, shows how corrupt the UK is.
 
 
# hiorta 2014-01-08 07:57
How refreshing to see politicians actually voting to the electorate’s wishes.
If we cannot help the poorest children in the land – whom should we help?
Labour had a clear run at these situations in our Parliament’s early years but focussed instead on making Scotland a branch office of Westminster.
Pugilist Labour are left looking for a shadow to box with.
 
 
# Macart 2014-01-08 08:40
This is another gem that awaits a no vote in September. The continuation of this kind of politics, protected by big brother parties and parliamentary privilege. Bear in mind we get a hand in writing the new rule book with independence and they’ll be directly answerable to the public, not the crown, but the public. Let’s see how well they behave after they’ve been slapped on the wrist a few times without big brothers help.

The party members and voters must surely by now see what’s leading them. C’mon people vote to be a Scottish Labour party and ditch the wannabe Tory leadership.
 
 
# Aplinal 2014-01-08 08:59
I will peruse the Scottish MSM today to see whether this is reported at all and if so, how it is spun. Unfortunately I rather think that NO ONE in Scotland will get to read about this and so their perception of Labour will not change.

Without the media YES would be walking this referendum. Our biggest “enemy” is the misinformation and withholding of information by the MSM. I still don’t know whether sites like this one, Bella, WoS etc. will be enough.

Our country is a democratic black hole.
 
 
# Breeks 2014-01-08 09:01
Well, she’s not got the caliber of Maggie Thatcher Milk Snatcher, but keep at it Johann, you’ll be remembered for something.
 
 
# Hibernian 2014-01-08 09:20
How much longer do we have to put up with this crap from a bunch of failed human beings? The game is well and truly up for this lot when it comes to attacking measures that try to help the youngest citizens in our society.
 
 
# Mac 2014-01-08 09:44
From yesterday’s Holyrood debate

“(free) school meals would not be my priority in addressing child poverty” – Johann Lamont

Labour does not know what it stands for in Scotland anymore. The party has sold it’s soul to the Tories.
 
 
# Marga B 2014-01-08 10:46
OT, but French study of possible EU stance on independence:

politique-etrangere.com/…/…

– Access negotiation & temp. exclusion not logical. New borders wd harm Europe.

— ‘Internal expansion’ must have different rules from new joiners.

— Founding EU values: freedom, democracy, equality & state of law means refusing self-determination would be ‘retreat of democracy’.

— EU not just union of states but of citizens and withdrawing European citizenship would contravene EU Court of Justice jurisdiction.
 
 
# indy2014 2014-01-08 11:32
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale is appealing to both sides in the independence debate to have a truce during the commonwealth games.
Yeah, we can’t have the world’s press and tourists seeing the negativity with which Scotland and its people are attacked daily by unionist politicians and media.
Jack used to send 1.5 billion pounds of OUR money back down to Westminster every year, because he couldn’t think of anything else to spend it on in Scotland, and you wonder why some people are made lords.
 
 
# gus1940 2014-01-08 17:01
This ‘iniiative’ from Jumpimg Flash Jack McConnell shows just how terrified Project Fear is.

It is obvious why he has come up with this – he knows damn well that by the time the Games come round The YES Campaign will be in top gear and grinding Project Fear into the dust.

His idea of course is to try to shut The YES Campaign up for a vital 2 weeks close to polling day.

Does he really think that we are naive enough not to see through his motive.
 
 
# proudscot 2014-01-08 12:05
Kezia Dugdale and Drew Smith both desperately arguing that Lamont’s Labour Group are actually in favour of the principle of free school meals – despite the fact that they voted against it. Eh?

This comedy duo have just confirmed the Willie Bain Principle, namely it is Labour Party policy to oppose anything proposed by the SNP. Politics of the Playground in action!
 
 
# zeldomzeen 2014-01-08 14:43
It’s impossible not to be negative here. I’m just gonna let the facts speak for themselves!!
 
 
# macgilleleabhar 2014-01-08 15:43
Alex Salmond put Labour in a no win situation. Support my motion and support independence or vote against it and deny a long standing Labour policy.
Pure dead brilliant and that but by the way, as they would say in the Labour heartlands.
 
 
# taimoshan 2014-01-08 17:05
Jack McConnell, who would like to stifle free speech, had no problem with the awful politicization of the London Olympics or the foul celebrations of the First World War which is to be foisted on Scotland! Methinks the noble lord is a hypocrite!
 
 
# bringiton 2014-01-08 18:58
Yup,just another one of the abominable No men who inhabit the London establishment.
Since they have No case for the union,all they can do is try to stop the Yes campaign.
His pretence of holding the jackets doesn’t fool anyone.
 
 
# michaelkav 2014-01-08 22:22
Labour are getting very odd not just in Scotland but the UK. They seem to have completely collapsed into a misguided freight train wrecking disaster everywhere they go.
 

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