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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Sheridan anger at 'meal deal'
School cafeteria
The report says swipe cards should be considered
Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan has reacted furiously after rejection of his plans for free school meals for every pupil.

Mr Sheridan said it was a "disgrace" that Labour and Conservative MSPs on the Scottish Parliament's all-party education committee, had ganged up to kill off his Bill.

However, Mr Sheridan said he was determined to fight on and would present new evidence on the health advantages of free school meals before the final vote by all MSPs next week.

The Glasgow region MSP said: "The report is a disgrace. It's a case of old Tories and new Tories uniting to deny the children of Scotland a nutritious, balanced meal at lunchtime.

Tommy Sheridan
Tommy Sheridan attacked the Tories and Labour
"I will be lobbying MSPs for the vote next Thursday and on Monday I will be launching a major new report by a leading health expert, Dr David Player, which backs the Bill."

The committee said a majority of members recommended that parliament should not agree the general principles of the Bill when it is debated at Holyrood on 20 June.

The committee's report instead recommended other measures for improving nutrition in schools.

These included free drinking water to be available in all schools, free milk for those at an age where this is "critical" for preventing tooth decay and discouraging the availability of commercial soft drinks.

The use of vending machines in schools should also be "questioned" and the stigma attached to free school meals addressed, perhaps, said the report, by using swipe cards.

'Nutritional standards'

Labour MSP Cathy Peattie, deputy convener of the committee, said MSPs were not convinced free school meals would automatically increase their popularity.

The MSP said factors other than cost appeared to be influencing children's decisions.

She said: "While the committee accepts the Bill would provide a school meal for all children in local authority schools, we are not convinced that it is capable of addressing all of the complex issues of uptake, nutritional standards and child poverty as the sponsors of the Bill say it seeks to do.

"We recognise it is difficult to legislate for the behaviour of children and that issues such as the marketing and presentation of food, the environment in which food is eaten and the reasons why children do not want to stay in school must be addressed."

See also:

19 Nov 01 | Scotland
29 Oct 01 | Scotland
18 Sep 01 | Scotland
08 May 01 | UK Education
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