AS attention shifts to the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary Eeection, the territories over which this campaign will be fought have already started to emerge. How we answer the many challenges around the delivery of affordable, high quality childcare for a modern Scotland is clearly an area likely to create debate but we believe it is time to take party politics out of that debate and place the needs of children at the very centre.

As Scotland’s leading charities, working with children and families as members of Scotland’s Childcare Alliance, we have come together to publicly challenge every political party contesting this election to take the politics out of childcare and find consensus around an issue which affects so many families in this country. Throughout successive elections and even in the recent independence referendum, the provision of more comprehensive, universally funded childcare has been a key offer from parties setting out their political wares. But the issue is far more complex than the number of funded hours on offer and a more mature and sophisticated approach is required.

On June 25, the Commission for Childcare Reform, headed up by Colin McLean, published its final report and recommendations. These offer us a bold and innovative vision for the shake-up and redesign of our childcare system in a way that will better answer the needs of all children and parents, meeting childcare requirements with flexibility and increased choice. Delivery of this vision will require co-operation across the political spectrum – it will also demand real collaboration and greater flexibility by those tasked to provide childcare – and local authorities must lead the transformation – starting with their own services. We know from past experience that political consensus can move mountains. Parliament successfully increased the care leaving age precisely because parties put aside their differences and unified around a radical vision for how we support looked after children. It is clear that we need similar consensus around the future of childcare.

To this end we ask all of Scotland’s political parties to commit, over the life of the next parliament, to delivering the vision laid out in the recommendations of the McLean commission. Scotland can do without more party political divisions on universally funded childcare hours, but it cannot do without a comprehensive and transformative shift in how we deliver childcare in this country.

SallyAnn Kelly, chief executive, Aberlour – Scotland’s Children’s Charity; Martin Crewe, director, Barnardos Scotland; Alison Todd, chief executive, Children1st; Ann McKenzie, deputy director, One Parent Families Scotland’

Clare Simpson, project manager, Parenting Across Scotland,

c/o 5Shandwick, Place, Edinburgh.

DAVID Crawford (Letters, July 11) suggests that parents should be better supported by the state to look after their children at home. The children's cognitive skills, intellect and personality would then be better developed as in the past. I have no idea if yesterday's boys and girls generally really were ahead in these capabilities, my limited remembrance of my early 1940s experience is no guide although my mother was stay-at-home: but we do read that for many decades now getting on for a fifth of adults struggle with literacy and numeracy, current school leavers still do too; even universities contemplate remedial courses for new students.

Nonetheless every year hundreds of thousands more students complete high-level courses and training. Britain's international reputation for creativity, inventiveness and financial wizardry doesn't seem to be impaired. Then again considerable disparities at home can leave some of the very young at a disadvantage which then carries on well into later years. That consideration alone impels another look at setting up a national early-years pre-school development programme working to a professionally-assessed curriculum in dedicated premises - that indeed takes the youngsters away from their parents but does in principle equalise getting the best out of subsequent school proper.

All the state money now available for childcare could be wasted unless such an approach is adopted - as it has been successfully in other countries.

Joe Darby,

Glenburn, St Martins Mill, Cullicudden, Dingwall.