Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has warned during a visit to a nursery in Gordon that the SNP’s obsession with independence is jeopardising the expansion of free early learning and childcare.
The Scottish Government has committed to doubling the provision of free early learning and childcare provision by 2020.
However, the recent Annual Nursery Survey indicated that only half of private and third sector nurseries plan to offer places to help the SNP Government meet its targets.
There is also no sign of the 15,000 additional staff who will be needed to run the expansion.
On a visit to Banbury Cross Nursery today, Mr Rennie cautioned that it would take a mammoth effort to deliver the additional places and that this would fall short if independence remains the SNP’s first priority.
Mr Rennie commented:
“Expanding free early learning and childcare will close the attainment gap, give children a better start in life and give parents more opportunities to go back to work, boosting the economy. That is precisely why the Scottish Liberal Democrats successfully badgered SNP ministers to expand provision in the first place.
“However, this is a huge commitment and it will take a mammoth effort to deliver it. Fears that ministers will try to roll this out on the cheap have contributed to only half of nurseries saying they are likely to get involved in delivering this policy.
“The fact that the Scottish Government is still only in the experimental phase with 14 different trials testing different options shows how slow progress has been.
“That is why the last thing parents, children and nurseries need is for this SNP Government to continue to be distracted by independence going forward.
“Former SNP ministers have admitted that the brakes were applied to the wheels of government as ministers focused their efforts on the 2014 referendum.
“Just as this election is the chance to change the direction of the whole UK, it is also a chance to reset the priorities of the SNP Government. That is the positive change that Liberal Democrats are bringing in this election.”