Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie today questioned proposals to delay the expansion of childcare to 1140 hours and called on the Scottish Government to stop stonewalling parents by refusing to release local progress reports. The party says a one year delay to the expansion is bad for education and the economy.
The Scottish Government has repeatedly denied Scottish Liberal Democrat requests for a breakdown of the national figures on progress towards the childcare expansion. Minister for Children and Young People Minister Maree Todd has refused requests for council-by-council data in Parliament, as well as in written parliamentary questions and through a freedom of information request.
The Minister has previously stated that the Scottish Government "provides a national level overview" on the delivery of 1140 hours and that there are "no plans" to provide a breakdown of progress by individual local authority.
This is despite the last national report warning of "variability" and "a number of councils being ahead of forecast position and a number behind".
The National Day Nurseries Association have said that the publication of local progress reports would “help demonstrate what is and isn’t working”.
Mr Rennie said:
"Everyone knows that Covid-19 has had an impact on the delivery of the childcare expansion, not least because the building work had to cease. But a 3 month lockdown shouldn't trigger a 12 month delay to this critical childcare rollout. This has to move faster.
"The First Minister told me earlier this week that it can be delivered quicker in some areas, but the government have taken the foot off the gas and lost the impetus. The government has repeatedly refused to tell us which councils are ahead and which are behind so their is no public pressure on where progress is required.
"Despite the national reports confirming that some councils are doing well while others struggle, the Scottish Government has repeatedly insisted that Parliament and parents don't need to see these details of local progress. We've asked the minister, tabled questions and pursued it through freedom of information, but been denied at every turn.
"Parents are warning that the hold-up will impact on their ability to get back to work, so they deserve to know how far along the expansion is in their area. Employers need to know what is going on locally too. The stonewalling needs to stop.
"We can't wait until December for more information. That is why I am asking the Scottish Government to produce regular reports on progress, and include within them the critical local breakdowns."