Early years in Scotland gets £1bn boost

2 May 18

More than £1bn is to be invested annually in early learning and childcare across Scotland under a landmark deal struck between councils and the Scottish Government.

The agreement is designed to meet the Government’s pledge to increase free nursery provision for three- and four- year-olds from 600 hours to 1,140 hours by 2020.

The deal will see Scottish administration’s funding for the day-to-day running of nurseries increase from £33m this year to £567m by 2021-22, bringing total public spend on the flagship policy to £990m a year.

In addition, councils will receive capital funding of £476m over four years to support associated buildings projects.  

Earlier this year, the Accounts Commission warned there was a “significant risk” councils would be unable to deliver the planned early years expansion on time.

The necessary increase in workforce numbers and infrastructure would be particularly challenging, the watchdog said, with councils’ estimate of the total cost of the policy outstripping the government’s own assessment by £160m.

Childcare minister Maree Todd said finalisation of the figures had taken close cooperation between national and local government.

“This is a landmark agreement, which marks the culmination of more than two years of hard work to establish a robust shared understanding of the costs attached to the expansion,” she said.

“I am grateful to all those in local authorities who have worked tirelessly to prepare expansion plans and cost estimates.  As we now move into a delivery phase, I look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners in local government.”  

Gail Macgregor, resources spokesperson for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said the deal followed months of “hard work, negotiation and real partnership working behind the scenes”.

“Local government is fully committed to early learning and childcare expansion to 1,140 hours,” she said.

“We needed to get this policy right from the start, together with the level of funding. I think we have achieved this by working together.”

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