The number of nursery inspections carried out by Scottish Government agency Education Scotland has fallen by one-third in the last five years, it has emerged.
Labour expressed alarm at the decline in the number of inspections, arguing they are essential to ensuring nurseries meet a high standard.
The reduction came to light in answer to a parliamentary question in which education secretary John Swinney admitted that the number of inspections fell from 201 in 2011 to 135 in the last year.
The estimate for 2016-17 also suggests that numbers will continue to fall, with projections for the current financial year at just 99 inspections.
Labour estimates that if current rates continue, it would take more than 18 years for every nursery to be inspected by Education Scotland.
Labour’s education spokesman Daniel Johnson said: “These are worrying figures. Inspections in our nurseries should be regular and thorough because so much of the work we can do to cut the attainment gap between the richest and the rest can begin there.
“Instead it looks like the SNP is happy to turn a blind eye and provide the bare minimum. That isn’t good enough – we have heard a lot of warm words from the SNP government about its commitment to education and cutting the attainment gap, but the actions of the government suggest otherwise.”
Mr Johnson added: “We need clarity as to why these inspection rates are falling.”
Concern has also been expressed at the falling number of inspections in schools.
At the end of last year, figures were highlighted which showed 107 school inspections are expected to take place in 2016-17, the lowest number in five years, down from the 115 carried out the previous year.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Ensuring a high quality experience for children is the key objective of our expansion of early learning and childcare in Scotland.
“Quality is one of the four underpinning principles of this expansion and is a key issue we are consulting on through the Blueprint for 2020.
“Education Scotland, Care Inspectorate, local authorities and a highly qualified and diverse workforce are all essential as we continue our work to almost double free early learning and childcare by 2020.”