Alex Salmond accused of 'referendum ploy' over childcare

Opinion polls indicate that women are much more opposed to separation. Johann
Lamont, the Scottish Labour leader, said the First Minister had been
transformed from “Braveheart” to a “Soccer Mom”.

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, said the 2007 SNP election manifesto
contained the free meals promise, but this had been dropped for the 2011
contest before being resurrected in the year of the referendum.

She said the 2007 manifesto also promised that an SNP government at a devolved
Holyrood would implement a massive expansion of childcare, but Mr Salmond
was now claiming this could only be done after independence.

The First Minister’s White Paper on independence promised half of
two-year-olds would get 600 hours of childcare in the first year of a
separate Scotland, increasing to 1,140 hours for all youngsters from one to
school age by the end of the second parliament.

But the SNP administration already has control over childcare and a YouGov
poll published at the weekend found two-thirds of women believe Scottish
ministers should deliver the more ambitious improvements now.

Ms Davidson described Mr Salmond’s childcare pledge as “something which this
government could have done in any one of the nearly seven years it’s been in
power but has chosen not to because separation is more important to them
than Scotland’s working parents.”

She added: “Their offer is a pig in a poke – and the Scottish public will not
be fooled.”

Ms Lamont said: “Rather than help families now, he chooses to make it a false
offer for a referendum when he has the power to do so now. He makes them
wait so he can engineer a false argument for changing the constitution.”

The Coalition’s promise to give all children in the first three years of
primary school free school meals from September resulted in extra money for
the Scottish Government under the Barnett formula.

Mr Salmond said £114 million would be spent over the next two years on the
same scheme in Scotland, saving families at least £330 a year for each

Free childcare provision will be expanded to every two-year-old from a
workless household in August, he said, the equivalent of 8,400 children or
15 per cent of all youngsters of that age.

He said it would be extended further to families that receive certain benefits
such as Jobseeker’s Allowance in August 2015. This would be 15,400
two-year-olds, 27 per cent of the total.

But the First Minister said the White Paper’s childcare plans could only be
afforded if the tax revenue from more mothers working flowed to Scotland
instead of the Treasury.

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Alex Salmond accused of 'referendum ploy' over childcare
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