Nicola Sturgeon has announced plans to trial free breakfasts for secondary school pupils.
The SNP leader revealed the scheme will be piloted if her party wins the upcoming Holyrood election.
It builds on the SNP’s existing plans to expand the provision of free breakfasts and lunches to all primary children which were announced by education secretary John Swinney in November.
The current free school lunch policy only covers children aged four to seven in P1-3.
The SNP estimates the pledge, which will run during both term-time and in the school holidays, could save families an estimated £650 a year.
It comes a day after Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said all pupils should benefit from free meals during the summer holidays through catch-up clubs in a bid to tackle holiday hunger.
During a campaign visit in Glasgow on Thursday, Sturgeon said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been tough for everyone – that’s why so much of our focus in government has been to help families get by in tough times.
“All children in primaries one to three already benefit from access to free school meals, saving families around £400 per child per year.
“But if re-elected, we will go much further. An SNP government will provide free school breakfasts and lunches to every primary school pupil in Scotland, all year round, and for all children in state-funded special schools in Scotland. This will eventually save them an estimated £650 a year per child.
“That will make an enormous difference to families in every corner of the country – but even this will not be the limit of our ambition.
“We’ll look to the long-term by piloting free nutritious school breakfasts in secondary schools, which will help us to explore the feasibility of universal breakfast provision in secondary schools.
“School meals boost children’s energy, concentration and behaviour, which leads to improvements in academic attainment.
“Our plan gives much-needed support to families right now – but it is also a significant investment in Scotland’s future.”
Sturgeon also had praise for Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford, who successfully lobbied the UK Government into a U-turn over its free school meals policy in England.
“It took a high-profile campaign by Marcus Rashford to shame Boris Johnson into doing the right thing,” she said.
“For us in Scotland, it is a lesson in why it is far better that key decisions are taken here in Scotland – and not left in the hands of the Tories at Westminster.
“By giving both votes to the SNP in this election, people can elect a government which has a plan to lead Scotland through the pandemic and ensure that every family is supported through the recovery.”
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