SPENDING on childcare is to rise to about £880 million if the Scottish Government presses ahead with plans to double the amount of free care youngsters are entitled to, the First Minister last night confirmed.
Nicola Sturgeon has already said if she is returned to power in 2016, she will increase the number of hours children receive from 15 to 30 hours a week by May 2020.
Delivering a speech to the David Hume Institute in Edinburgh, she said spending on childcare was “one of the best investments any government can possibly make”.
The SNP plan to increase nursery provision would double the bill from £439 million this year to about £880m at the end of the next parliament.
Ms Sturgeon said that early learning was “central to any enlightened view of what modern Scotland should look like”, adding that was why it is “such a driving priority of my government”.
She said: “That’s why I can confirm my intention that spending on early learning and care will double over the course of the next parliament.”
She likened the focus on free nursery care for three and four-year-olds, as well as some of the most vulnerable two-year-olds, to the construction of a new road bridge over the Forth.
She said: “The great capital investment project of this parliament is the Queensferry Crossing. If I am re-elected First Minister next year, I intend that the great infrastructure project of the next parliament will be perhaps less visible, but arguably even more transformational. It will be the investment in care and learning facilities needed to ensure our early-years provision matches our primary-school provision.
“[This] will create a bridge to a better future for children and families across the country.”
Opposition MSPs have claimed there is not enough childcare to meet the current pledge of 15 hours a week.
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Even when you’ve heard it for about the third time, it is still welcome news that more money is to be invested in childcare. The SNP government is now committed to doubling the amount to be spent.
“It’s all the more welcome as Scots had been told this could only happen if we voted for independence. Clearly Labour was right to insist that more investment in early years could be carried out by a devolved and powerful parliament.”
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