Since coming into office just over 5 months ago Humza Yousaf MSP has not yet stamped his mark on Scotland. Next week’s Programme for Government could be his chance. The Programme for Government is an annual statement from the First Minister laying out the plans that they expect their government to deliver on in the next twelve months. Delivered in the first week of the new parliamentary year, it holds a similar place in the Holyrood calendar to Westminster’s King’s Speech.
When the then First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, rose to her feet on 7th September 2021 she launched a programme which included this promise to children and young people; ‘In the next year, we will develop plans to deliver free breakfasts to all primary and special school children, and start to pilot provision.’
Put quite simply, that didn’t happen. Not because the Scottish Government announced a dramatic change in policy, they didn’t divert investment to roads or sport or health, but instead there was radio silence. For almost two years the Scottish Government have made no substantive progress.
Ministers have told the Scottish Parliament in writing of ‘work with local authorities and key stakeholders to better understand and map [pre-existing] provision.’ And that ‘the Scottish Government is committed to developing plans to deliver free breakfasts.’ On the last day before this year’s Summer Recess the First Minister himself reiterated the commitment telling MSPs that his Government has ‘committed to developing plans to offer free breakfasts to all primary and special school children.’
Next week is a chance for the Scottish Government to take a step forward, a step beyond the perpetual commitment to ‘developing plans.’ Children and young people in Scotland need more than a government ‘developing plans’ they need ministers to start actioning them.
In November we’ll be halfway through this parliamentary term. The 2026 election, the SNPs own deadline for delivering breakfast provision according to their manifesto, is not that far away. The 5th September may be one of the last major chances Humza Yousaf and his ministers have to announce proposals which can be fully actioned this side of an election.
No one, not least Magic Breakfast, expected the Scottish Government and their partners in local government to be able to action one of the biggest changes in school food overnight. Change takes time and that’s why action to begin that change must start now.
It’s not just Magic Breakfast who believe that, ahead of our Breakfast Can’t Wait campaign we commissioned polling with adults from across Scotland. They told us that a vast majority of them, around 80%, think that the First Minister should prioritise breakfast in his first 6 months in office. Whilst the fast pace of the news cycle might make it not feel like it, we’re still in that period. Therefore, this is the perfect time to act.
Breakfast of course cannot exist in a vacuum. Earlier this month our Chief Executive cosigned a letter spearheaded by the Poverty Alliance outlining the position of the sector ahead of next week’s statement. It is our hope that the commitment to eradicate poverty that Humza Yousaf articulated during his leadership campaign is borne out in reality.
If it is then Magic Breakfast remains ready, equipped with our over two decades of hands-on experience supporting schools and our leading research, to support the Scottish Government and local authorities to deliver for young Scots. If not, then we won’t stop advocating for politicians to make the positive ethical, economical, and educational choice to deliver breakfast.
With a week to go until the First Minister launches this year’s Programme for Government why not tweet him @HumzaYousaf and tell him that #BreakfastCantWait or contact one of your MSPs?
You can find out who they are and their contact details here.
Also, make sure to look out for our response to the Programme for Government on Tuesday afternoon on our social media channels.