Families with two young children could be almost £5,000 a year better off if Scotland was independent, the children's minister has claimed.

Aileen Campbell said parents with a youngster at nursery and another child in primary one could save £4,900 after a Yes vote, thanks to free school meals and SNP plans for more funded childcare.

The Scottish Government has pledged to transform childcare north of the border if the country votes to leave the UK in September's independence referendum.

Ms Campbell told the SNP spring conference in Aberdeen: "One of the biggest and most overwhelming reasons we want independence is to create a better future and an even better country for our children."

She said the Scottish Government was doing a "great deal" for children with its existing powers, with Holyrood having recently passed legislation which will increase to 600 hours the amount of free childcare three and four-years-olds, as well as vulnerable two-year-olds, are entitled to.

"We know families are struggling with the costs of childcare and with achieving a positive work-life balance," Ms Campbell said.

"These provisions stand to save families the equivalent of £700 per year per child.

"Indeed our proposals for childcare and free school meals could save a family with a child in P1 and another aged two at nursery around £1,000 a year by 2015.

"But with independence this same family could save as much as £4,900."

She hailed the proposals as "real and tangible help for families who need our support".

"Our white paper sets out ambitions to transform childcare and highlights why we need independence to achieve it.

"If we emulate Swedish levels of female participation in the workplace we can generate £700 million to reinvest that back into funding childcare."