We believe that this election is an opportunity to back the next generation of young Scots, to ensure that they have the best start in life and to improve the opportunities available to them when they grow up.
We want to build on our strong record in government of protecting family incomes through policies like increasing free childcare provision and extension of free school meals.
Here are some of the key benefits to Scotland’s parents and children from a re-elected SNP government.
We will introduce a new Maternity and Early Years Allowance to help families meet essential costs of looking after young children.
Our Maternity and Early Years Allowance will increase support for new mums on low incomes to £600 when a child is born and introduce support of £250 when a child goes to nursery and when they start school.
The SNP will also reinstate payments of £300 at birth for second and subsequent children, previously abolished by the Tories. A family with two children could receive £1,900 of support during a child’s early years.
Across Scotland the policy could benefit 12,000 new mums with children.
We will give every child the best start in life by entitling new parents to a baby box.
The baby box – an adaptation of the successful Finnish model – offers essential items for a child’s first weeks including bedding, clothing, sleeping mat and books. The box itself can be used as a basic crib or travel cot. In Finland, 95 per cent of first-time mothers choose to accept the baby box.
The package, which will be available free to all families expecting a baby, will encourage more women to take up ante-natal care – contributing to ongoing efforts to reduce stillbirth rates – and help with early literacy.
Free childcare and early years education provision will be doubled to 30 hours per week.
Since the SNP came to office, the number of hours of free childcare and early years education available to families in Scotland has increased by 45 per cent. We want to build on this and will increase provision for three year olds, four year olds and vulnerable two year olds to 30 hours per week – matching the time that children spend in primary school each week. This commitment would potentially save families over £3,000 per child per year by 2021.
Free school meals will be extended to all children benefiting from expanded childcare.
The SNP Scottish Government has already delivered free school meals for primaries 1 to 3, benefitting 135,000 children across Scotland and saving families around £380 a year for each child. If re-elected, when we expand early years education to include full day provision, we will also extend free meals will be extended to 2, 3 and 4 year olds in our nurseries.
We will reduce Council Tax bills for low income families by an average of £173.
To support those on low incomes and provide additional support to families we will also increase the child allowance within the council tax reduction scheme by 25 per cent. This will benefit 77,000 households by an average of £173 per year – around £15 per month. This boost for low income families will help nearly 140,000 children across Scotland.
We’ll protect families from Labour plans to increase basic rate taxes and Tory plans to charge for prescriptions.
While our fair and balanced taxation plans will see the basic rate of Income Tax frozen, Labour’s planned tax hike would hit low and middle income households. And now that they have dropped their plans for an Income Tax rebate, Labour will offer no protection for low income workers from their tax rise.
Meanwhile, the Tories want people who are ill to pay for their prescriptions and for students to pay back door tuition fees of £6,000. The Tory Leader has admitted that the proposed tax on ill health would cost £8.40 per prescription, with no exemptions for people with conditions such as cancer, asthma or motor neurone disease.
Aileen Campbell is Minister for Children and Young People