More than two thirds of three to five-year-olds attending council nurseries have places for just three hours and 10 minutes per day, according to a new report.
A study by childcare campaign group Fair Funding for our Kids found that 68% of all council nursery places for three to five-year-olds in 2017/18 were for half days only.
Almost half (48%) of all nursery places in Scotland were half days only, while less than 3% of all nursery places are for full days all year round, according to responses to Freedom of Information requests submitted by the group.
Children aged three to five are entitled to 600 hours a year of free childcare, however campaigners said that half-day places, many of which are offered in term time only, are almost impossible for working parents to make use of.
A campaign spokesman said: “Early years care is so important, but working parents continue to miss out.
“Very few people have bosses who are prepared to let them work for less than three hours a day, and many don’t have grandparents who can fill gaps in childcare.
“We need much faster progress in eliminating half-day places except where parents specifically request them.”
The report found that 16% of all nursery places in 2017/18 are for full days in term time only, up from 3% in 2016.
While 68% of council nursery places and almost half of all nursery places were for half days only, this is an improvement on 2016, when 90% of council places and 65% of all places in Scotland were offered on this basis.
The study also claimed that local authorities in Scotland are underfunding partnership places in private nurseries by up to £461 per child a year.
The research found that 21 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities are offering an hourly rate below the national average cost of £4.03 an hour.
Campaigners concluded that Scotland is still “some distance from the fully funded, flexible, child-centred system that we need”.
The Scottish Government has pledged to increase the free childcare entitlement to 1,140 hours a year by 2020.
Campaigners are calling for action to address the problems and a focus on improving the childcare sector so that it works for all families.