15 May 2019, Katy Morton
In response to a parliamentary question from opposition MSP Rachael Hamilton, children and young people minister Maree Todd has revealed that 97 nurseries have been built, expanded and refurbished since August 2017 to support the expansion of the 1,140 hours being introduced from 2020.
This represents just 13 per cent of the nurseries needed to achieve the Scottish Government’s target of 750 by the end of 2021.
This is despite capital funding of £476 million over four years provided to councils by the Scottish Government to support associated building projects.
Of the 97 nurseries, 72 are completed refurbishments, 12 completed extensions and 13 completed new builds.
According to the Scottish Conservatives, if the current rate of progress is maintained, the government could fall short by around 500 nurseries.
However the Scottish Government has claimed that the 'figures only capture the very early phase of the expansion'.
It follows a warning by Scotland's spending watchdog Audit Scotland earlier in the year that changing premises to the level needed and increasing childcare staff in the time available would be difficult.
Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton said, ‘The SNP has made so little progress towards their own target on nursery capacity it is laughable.
‘Nicola Sturgeon herself has promised that 750 nurseries will be built, expanded or refurbished by 2021 yet the SNP is nowhere near.
‘The SNP has taken almost two years to upgrade or build 97 nurseries in total.
‘With this kind of progress how on earth can they promise each child will have 1,140 hours of childcare next year?
‘Yet again it seems that there is a massive gulf between the SNP’s promises and the reality of their delivery.’
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said, 'These figures only capture the very early phase of the expansion and exclude the many hundreds of projects now either under way or at an advanced stage of development.
'We are therefore very confident that councils will comfortably meet the pledge of around 750 new or refurbished nurseries.'
NDNA Scotland said it has found in many cases, local authorities have agreed new builds and expansions of settings in areas where partner providers from the PVI sector could fulfil the number of places needed locally.
Jane Malcolm, NDNA Scotland’s policy manager for Scotland said, ‘We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to make sure there are enough places to offer all three- and four-year olds 1,140 hours of funded childcare from next year.
‘However, local authorities are required by the Scottish Government to look at their own existing resources and those of their partner providers before building and expanding their own provision. Private and voluntary providers are an essential part of the existing Early Learning and Childcare infrastructure.
‘We have found that in many cases, local authorities have agreed new builds and expansion projects in areas where partner childcare providers could fulfil the number of places needed locally. In other words, local authorities are duplicating provision needlessly. If these councils had followed the guidelines, much of this capital expansion could have been avoided and private providers less worried about being put out of business.’