The Scottish Government has pledged £10m as part of a financial package to fund free school meals in Scotland over the school holidays.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville announced the fund of more than £10m speaking at today's Scottish Government coronavirus briefing. 

Local councils will receive the financial support to cover meals over the Christmas, February and Easter breaks as part of the £350m package announced in March to help vulnerable people during the pandemic.

Ms Somerville also announced that reimbursements would also be possible for councils that have kept their projects running through the October holiday.

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She said: “This important investment will support around 156,000 children and young people, helping families meet the cost of meals over the school holidays.

“It will be for local authorities to decide how this support is delivered, however, we continue to advocate for a cash-first approach where appropriate, giving families the choice of what food they buy and where they buy it.”

Bill Scott, the chairman of the Poverty and Inequality Commission, said: “We welcome this much-needed additional help for low income families and individuals.

“The funding for free school meals during the Christmas, February and Easter breaks will come as a great relief for many hard-pressed parents.

“We would urge local authorities to use the flexibility given to them by the Scottish Government to ensure that every penny of extra help available gets to those who need it most.”

A further £20 million will be handed to local authorities to deal with “financial insecurity”, with councils able to decide how they spend the increase.

Ms Somerville said the extra funding could be used to supplement the budgets used to administer the Scottish Welfare Fund, boosting discretionary housing payments or for fuel costs.

She added: “This new investment is in addition to the £57.5 million already made available for the Scottish Welfare Fund and for the investment for our new self isolation support grant.

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“I would encourage anyone who needs support to reach out to their local council for help, our national assistance helpline available on 0800 111 4000 remains in place for anyone requiring support to access food and the essentials that they need.”

Gail Macgregor, the resources spokeswoman for local authority body Cosla, said: “The impacts of the virus have not been felt equally across society and we welcome this funding, which can be used flexibly by councils, enabling them to provide more support for those who need it most in our communities.

“Local authorities will deploy it in ways that best meets local circumstance, to provide the most effective support to those experiencing financial hardship, for example through grants, addressing food insecurity, or support for fuel costs.”

She added: “We know that as winter arrives and the furlough scheme draws to a close unfortunately more adults and children are likely to need assistance to ensure they are fed and warm.

“Local government is the anchor in our communities and is able to provide advice, support and assistance to those that need it.”

Douglas Ross last month pledged to introduce free school meals at both breakfast and lunch for all primary pupils if his party gained power next year.

Free meals are currently open to all P1 to P3 pupils in Scotland, as well as those whose families receive Universal Credit or other benefits.