THE First Minister has today announced that free school meals will be extended in Scotland throughout the summer.

It comes as the UK Government has become embroiled in a row over its decision not to extend their scheme in England - with Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford pleading for a U-turn.

Speaking at her daily briefing in Edinburgh today, in which she revealed a further five deaths from coronavirus in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon pledged a further £12.6million in funding to local authorities to extend the scheme.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Free Schools Meals are currently being made available to around 175,000 children across Scotland, either within local authority premises which are still open or through direct cash payments, supermarket vouchers or the direct supply of meals.

"I can confirm that this provision will be extended throughout the summer holiday period, we know families are under considerable financial pressures and free school meals are a help to many.

"But they are also important to the health and wellbeing of young children.

“We will provide £12.6 million in funding to local authorities to enable the continuation of free school meals during the period from the end of June to the start of the new term in August.”

The First Minister said the funding would be allocated “in a way that allows councils, as many of them do, to co-ordinate school meal provision with wider support that they make available to families”.

She added that £15 million will also be made available to councils to continue to provide extra support to those in severe poverty or who face other barriers to accessing food.

Glasgow Times:

Commenting on the announcement, COSLA Spokespeople for Resources and Children and Young People, Councillors Gail Macgregor and Stephen McCabe issued a joint statement:  

“COSLA welcomes today’s announcement from the First Minister on additional funding for food provision.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the effort of council staff  in ensuring access to food for those who need it has been heroic. 

“Councils and their partners have worked successfully, innovatively and at pace to ensure that eligible children continue to receive free school meals.

“Successful mechanisms have also been put in place in every Local Authority area to ensure  food is available to those who are unable to access it by the usual means due to isolation requirements or financial reasons. This support for those who are most vulnerable and for those with low income remains a key priority.

“Councils will continue to work on the front line to ensure this provision remains available to those in need as we continue to respond to COVID-19 and as our communities begin to recover.”

Ms Sturgeon also told the briefing that she “expected” to be able to move into the second phase of the Scottish route map out of lockdown on Thursday, when the review of measures takes place.

However, she said not all measures will be put in place “overnight”, but that in “the coming weeks” staff would be able to return to factories, construction would be able to continue its restart plan and non-essential retail firms will have an opening date.

She added: “None of this will restore the economy immediately to full health, but it will be a significant and sustainable improvement on our current position and that is, of course, important.

“That gradual re-emergence from lockdown is crucial, that is how we allow our businesses to start to operate and to make money again.”

Scotland's latest coronavirus figures:

A total of 2,453 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up by five from 2,448 on Monday, Nicola Sturgeon said.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said 18,045 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 15 from 18,030 the previous day.

There are 986 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, an increase of 116.

Of these patients, 19 were in intensive care, an increase of one.