SCOTTISH FARMERS would benefit from more public procurement contracts under a new free school meal plan proposed by the Scottish Conservatives, party leader Douglas Ross has claimed.

His recently unveiled education policy paper would give primary school children free breakfasts and lunches, and he has pledged that locally sourced dairy produce wouldbe at the core of that provision.

Backing the proposals, Tracey Roan of Roan’s Dairy said: “Roan’s Dairy are proud to be part of a number of schemes getting milk into schools and nurseries across Dumfries and Galloway, from being a direct supplier with the Scottish Cool Milk Scheme to supplying milk for school breakfast clubs.

“Giving local schools access to good quality produce makes logical sense in reducing food miles and giving rural businesses a much needed boost but all too often hurdles are put in the way during the procurement process for smaller businesses, which means they can’t compete," she continued.

“While there are many health benefits of getting milk into schools, it’s also about the educational side, enabling children to connect and understand where their food comes from.”

Scottish Conservative Public Health Spokesman, Brian Whittle, added: “The Scottish Conservatives are committed to putting our farmers at the heart of the public food procurement process. Our new plan to give every primary school pupil a free breakfast and lunch is the perfect opportunity to put that into practice; boosting attainment, improving pupils’ health and supporting Scotland’s rural economy. It’s time to make sure Scotland’s public food procurement system works for Scotland’s farmers and food producers.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Since its introduction in January 2015, we have fully funded the provision of free school meals for all children in the first three years of publicly funded primary schools and we continue to do so. Access to healthy and nutritious school meals is essential, given the clear benefits for pupils’ learning and health. 
“While it is for local authorities to decide how they buy food that is healthy, nutritious, affordable and to the highest standards, we are working with the food industry, Scotland Excel and councils to support local sourcing. 
“We also support the Soil Association’s Food For Life programme which guarantees that school children in four local authorities can access delicious, healthy and sustainable food that has been grown, sourced and produced in Scotland.”