Childcare minister “oblivious” to crisis in her own backyard

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and candidate for Shetland Beatrice Wishart have today said Childcare Minister Maree Todd is “oblivious” to the evidence from her own backyard that the Scottish Government’s approach to the childcare expansion is actually pushing some nurseries towards closure.

The Minister told BBC Good Morning Scotland that private nurseries “will be absolutely crucial” to the Scottish Government and that the early years workforce “can tolerate some fluctuations”, but at the same time nurseries in her region are in crisis as they haemorrhage staff to council-run providers.

A National Day Nurseries Association survey, published today and covering 181 childcare providers, found that 71% had recruitment issues while 62% faced “significant challenges” in retaining staff.

Willie Rennie commented:

“The Scottish Government must recognise that shuffling workers from private to council nurseries doesn’t increase capacity. It has sleepwalked into creating a crisis, causing the closure of private nurseries which are critical to realising the childcare expansion and offer much-needed flexibility to parents.

“Liberal Democrats worked hard to persuade the SNP that free childcare is one of the best investments we can make. However, the resulting expansion is in real jeopardy. We are now so close to the rollout that parents are making plans to take up their entitlement. The Scottish Government cannot leave them in the lurch.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Shetland Beatrice Wishart said:

“In Maree Todd’s own region we have seen Sandwick Central Nursery shut and another, Peerie Foxes in Lerwick, warn of a serious threat of closure. The doubling of free provision for parents should see nurseries flourishing, not shutting.

“Having the SNP’s childcare minister represent the area doesn’t seem to make a blind bit of difference. Despite the mounting evidence and pleas for help, the Minister doesn’t appear willing or capable of changing any aspect of the Scottish Government’s approach.”

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