Lanarkshire MSP hits back in free school meals voting row

A Lanarkshire MSP has defended her decision to vote against an extension to free school meals for all youngsters.

Clare Haughey voted in favour of the Good Food Nation bill in the Scottish Parliament last week, but declined to back a proposed amendment that would have seen school meals, which, are currently means-tested for older pupils, made free for all.

Pupils in P1 – 5 currently have the meals for free, and campaigners such as the Scottish Trades Union Congress say it should be extended to all state school pupils.

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Labour MSP Monica Lennon’s amendment was rejected after SNP and Green politicians either voted against or abstained from the vote.

The STUC slammed both parties afterwards, and claimed universal free meals would have been a boost to youngsters in poverty-stricken areas, including parts of Rutherglen and Cambuslang.

General secretary Roz Foyer said: “This week political leaders in the Scottish Parliament have engaged in an act of flagrant duplicity, leaving children throughout the country in entirely avoidable poverty and hunger.

“Our Food For Thought campaign seeks to end the injustice of child hunger, rolling out universal free school meals to all throughout primary and secondary school.

Roz Foyer, STUC general secretary
STUC general secretary Roz Foyer

“Families across Scotland are at the cutting edge of the worst cost-of-living crisis seen for generations. Despite the progress made, this week could have been a real turning point against poverty. We cannot possibly make Scotland the ‘best place in the world to grow up’ whilst children go hungry at night.

“It’s hugely disappointing that the Scottish Government chose to reject the amendments from Monica Lennon within the Good Food Nation Bill. Child hunger is a political choice. We need to see the political will to fix it.”

Ms Haughey stated to Lanarkshire Live that she knocked the proposal back as it would have left health boards such as NHS Lanarkshire required to state how they would ensure the provision of the free meals would go ahead, despite that not being their responsibility.

Clare Haughey
The Rutherglen MSP voted against the amendment

She said: “Scotland already offers the most generous provision of universal free school lunches in the UK, with pupils in P1 to 5 and in special schools already benefiting from the offer of universal free school meals.

“The proposed amendment referred to would have meant that health boards, and other authorities, would have had to include in their plans how they intend to ensure the provision of universal free school meals – even though they have no responsibility for this.

“The Scottish Government is fully committed to the expansion of free school meals over the course of this parliamentary session.”

However Ms Haughey was criticised by the Labour list MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy.

She stated: ““The Cost of Living Crisis is already forcing people across Rutherglen to make impossible choices between heating and eating – the Good Food Nation Bill was a chance to take a different path.

“Instead, the SNP and the Greens gave us warm words, and snappy rhetoric but failed to come through on deeds. Warm words are nice, but they don’t heat homes or put food on the table.

“By voting against the Scottish Labour amendment which would have put a statutory Right to Food at the heart of the Bill, Clare Haughey has let her constituents down, and betrayed the poorest in our communities.

“She, and her colleagues had a chance to take a stand against food poverty, and they failed to take it. “

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