While the UK voted as a whole to leave the EU by 52% to 48% in 2016, in Scotland, the numbers were very different, with 62% voting to remain a part of the EU. A Panelbase poll also suggests support for Scottish independence is now at a record high 56%.
The government said leaving the EU means local authorities in Scotland can no longer receive funding under the EU school milk scheme to subsidize their own local schemes for pupils.
The EU cut funding for the project in the UK in October, and around two-thirds of Scotland’s 32 local authorities received funding form the scheme.
Scottish Ministers pressed the UK Government to make up the shortfall, but to date no such commitment has been made. To provide certainty to parents, schools and local authorities, the Scottish Government said it has agreed to commit funding of £722,000 ($957,400) this school year so the scheme can continue, should the UK Government refuse to fill the gap.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said, “Offering milk in schools provides an excellent source of nutrients for young people and helps to set up healthy eating habits.
“The withdrawal of the EU scheme threatens the ability of local authorities to provide subsidized milk in schools, running the risk that children and young people will miss out. It is another example of the detrimental financial impact of leaving the EU.
“We will continue to press the UK Government to make up the shortfall, but parents and local authorities can be assured we will not allow the school milk scheme to be lost.”
Farmers’ group NFU Scotland said it is delighted the Scottish Government has stepped up to the plate.
Vice president Charlie Adam, who sits on the Union’s milk committee said, “Milk and dairy are a central plank in the health of Scotland’s schoolchildren. NFUS wrote to the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney MSP, in his role as Cabinet Secretary of Education and Skills voicing the concerns of our members in August when we first heard that the valued EU funded school milk project was to cease.
“We are delighted that Scottish Government has responded quickly to ensure the scheme continues.
“For some time Scottish Government has provided positive reassurances that it values the clear contribution milk and dairy products make to our children’s health and that it was working hard behind the scenes to mitigate the effects of the loss of the EU school milk scheme. Going forward, NFUS hope to work with Scottish Government to look at the school milk scheme post-2021 and how that will be best delivered to the nation’s schools.”
Scottish Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said, “The withdrawal of the EU scheme threatens the ability of local authorities to provide subsidized milk in schools. It is another example of the detrimental financial impact caused to Scotland by leaving the EU.
“In the face of the funding gap caused by the UK Government’s actions, Scottish Ministers have worked together to ensure local authorities can still offer subsidized milk in schools – benefiting children and young people and protecting the interests of our hard-working dairy farmers.”
Amy Woodhouse, head of policy, projects and participation at charity Children in Scotland, said, "We are delighted that the Scottish Government will provide financial support to continue the provision of subsidized milk in schools. Children in Scotland recognizes that the health consequences for children and young people of food poverty and poor diet are considerable. In such a difficult year, when many families are facing enormous financial pressures, this small but important step, alongside recent free school meal announcements, will help to protect children's health and wellbeing during a time of increased vulnerability.''