Greens call for £1 million of school dinner debt to be written off

Councils should cancel the debt owed by families for unpaid school meals, says Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer MSP.

An investigation by the Scottish Greens has revealed that children and families have accrued more than £1 million of school meal debt. This includes eye-watering debts of £141,528 to North Ayrshire Council, £114,690 to Aberdeen City Council, and £107,847 to South Lanarkshire Council.

Midlothian Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar failed to respond to Freedom of Information requests for this information and Fife Council claimed it did not hold the information centrally.

Commenting, Ross Greer said:

“Children can’t get a good education if they’re hungry at school. Most councils will rightly ensure every pupil has a meal at lunchtime, even if they don’t have the money to cover it, but these figures make it clear that debts are being chased from families who simply can’t pay. With the cost of living crisis putting huge pressure on family finances, this is the right time to write off all outstanding school meal debt. Pursuing the debt is causing stress and embarrassment for pupils and their families but I’ve also spoken to school staff who hate being put in the position of asking pupils for money they know the family does not have.

“I’m proud that as a result of the cooperation agreement between the Greens and SNP we are rolling out free school meals to all primary school children, as well as taking other measures to help family budgets such as free bus travel for under 22s. Writing off this astonishing debt would be an excellent way for councils to also help families with the financial burdens they face.”