Nicola Sturgeon to promise childcare provision ‘unmatched’ in UK

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Ms Sturgeon will promise investment in early years education and childcare rising to £840m a year

Nicola Sturgeon will say the SNP’s commitment to childcare is “unmatched” in the UK as she announces spending will double by 2020.

Scotland’s first minister will use a keynote speech at the party’s autumn conference to flesh out plans to expand free early learning and childcare.

The Scottish government has pledged to almost double free provision to 30 hours a week.

It would apply to three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds.

Ms Sturgeon will tell delegates in Glasgow the move would save working parents about £350 a month on the costs of childcare.

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She is expected to say: “Often when I have talked about this policy, I’ve been asked – sometimes sceptically – if we will really be able to fund it properly.

“Well, today, we put our money where our mouth is. Over the past few months, we have undertaken detailed work to assess the investment needed.

“Right now, we invest around £420m a year in early years education and childcare. I can announce today that by the end of this parliament, that will rise to £840m a year.

“This is a commitment unmatched anywhere else in the UK. And it’s the best investment we can make in Scotland’s future.”

Ms Sturgeon will say her government has “led the way” during its decade in power and the party’s focus was now “on the next 10 years and beyond”.

‘Uncertain path’

Transformational policies are needed to equip Scotland for the future in a rapidly changing world and with Brexit looming, she will add.

Ms Sturgeon is expected to say: “That world around us is being shaped by events that no country on its own can hope to completely control.

“But we face the added uncertainty of a UK now being driven down the most uncertain path in modern times.

“We know that Scotland does better when decisions are taken here in Scotland.

“So as we look ahead we face a choice: We can trail in the wake of the change that is coming – or we can choose to shape our own future.

“Let’s resolve this today: Let’s not wait for others to decide for us. Let’s put Scotland in the driving seat.”

Ms Sturgeon’s speech will be closely scrutinised for clues to how the Scottish government intends to find the funds for increased public spending.

BBC Scotland understands that ministers are reviewing the income levels at which people begin to pay higher rates of tax.

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