Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie MSP, has called for the creation of a new childcare taskforce so that Scotland stands ready to deliver bold plans for childcare when powers come following the Smith Commission.
Speaking to members in Fife, where he updated them on the Smith Commission, Mr Rennie said that the new powers mean the SNP Government has no more excuses for holding back on childcare.
Mr Rennie has long led the debate on childcare, where he has consistently urged the SNP Government to expand its offer to more two year olds in order to match provision with that of England.
In England, 40 percent of two year olds benefit from free childcare. Following an eighteen month campaign to the SNP Government, Scottish ministers this year finally agreed to deliver the Liberal Democrats plans for more childcare but fell short of delivering the full 40 percent. Scottish Liberal Democrats will continue to call for this expansion as part of their budget discussions with the Scottish Government.
Speaking at a Scottish Liberal Democrat members event in Fife this weekend, Mr Rennie said:
“The Liberal Democrats argued for these home rule powers and we are delighted to endorse them. This is Home Rule for Scotland.
“Through the new tax powers Scotland will have the flexibility and agility to do things differently in Scotland if we choose. If we want to build a fairer society by investing more in nursery education we can do that.
“After 100 years of talking about home rule I am proud that we are in a place where we can talk in real terms about what we will do with home rule.
“These bold new powers mean that there is nothing standing in the way of the SNP delivering more childcare. So Scotland should stand ready to use these powers when they come to our parliament.
“That is why I want the new First Minister to create a new childcare taskforce to investigate what we can do to enable more people to get on in life. I have previously called for the Scottish Government to expand its childcare provision to 40 percent, not 27 percent, of all two year olds. I will continue to call for this in the budget talks.
“The new tax powers mean we could go even further. For example this could include expanding childcare provision to more children and to more hours per week.
"In the continued spirit of consensus of the Smith Commission I am willing to listen to proposals from other parties.
“But we must have this debate now so that we can move swiftly to enable more young people to get on in life. This is too important an issue to be used to dress up political manifestos. If children miss out once, they miss out forever.
“After a long debate on the constitution I am challenging the SNP to match their words with action. I hope that Nicola Sturgeon will meet this challenge.”