The SNP this week proposed a budget to extend free school meals to Primary 4 and Primary 5s, increase the school clothing grant by 30% and introduce Free at Three in 2020.

At the meeting of the full council, the Labour Party, backed by the Tories, moved a motion to remove the extension of free school meals in favour of implementing Free at Three in August this year.

During the debate, the opposition parties offered no substance to their proposal, instead insisting that council officers determine what sort of Free at Three South Lanarkshire should implement.

As a result of their amendment, the SNP’s plan to extend free school meals which would have benefitted 6,000 pupils will not be implemented.

Commenting after the budget, Council Leader, John Ross said:

“I am delighted that our budget passed today, which continues the progressive policies that we have been working to implement.

“As a result of our budget, up to 200 new council homes will be built, the school uniform grant will increase and the roll-out of breakfast clubs will be complete by the end of the year.

“I am however disappointed that the Labour Party and the Tories united to oppose one of the most progressive policies within it.

“By rejecting free school meals for primary 4 and 5, the Labour Party and the Tories have stopped 6,000 children and families benefiting from a nutritious meal at school.

“Instead they opted for a slogan without any substance in Free at Three, which will be difficult to implement in the timescales they outlined. It is up to them to justify their decision to the people they represent.

“It has been a pleasure to lead South Lanarkshire over the past few years, implementing our manifesto commitments to reduce poverty and increase educational attainment.

“Whilst the opposition parties have unbelievably rejected giving free meals to some of our youngest people, we will continue to work hard for everyone across South Lanarkshire.”

Christina McKelvie MSP and Angela Crawley MP have welcomed the sale of the former Bairds site in Hamilton following their joint report on the future of the town centre.

South Lanarkshire Council’s Executive Committee today unanimously approved the sale of the former Bairds site to Wetherspoons for £750,000 to be used as a brand-new pub on the corner of Quarry Street and Duke Street.

The closure of Bairds in 2014 left a vacant lot which has had a negative impact on Hamilton town centre and during the public consultation over the centre 83 per cent of those surveyed considered it their number one priority to find a use for the unit.

It is envisaged that the redevelopment will both improve the image of the town centre and benefit the wider area through the extra footfall and employment opportunities it is expected to generate.

Christina McKelvie, MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, welcomed the decision: “It is great news that we are seeing real steps towards bringing the old Bairds site back into use.

“This was one of the major concerns addressed the report carried out by Angela and myself into condition of Hamilton Town Centre.

”The council should be commended for their work in organising this deal and taking us further along the road to regenerating our high street.”

Angela Crawley, MP for Lanark and Hamilton East, said: “I am delighted by the positive progress made by the council in allowing the Bairds site to be redeveloped.

“The building is one of the most noticeable parts of our town people see as they drive through, and I believe the renewed site will show people Hamilton is once again open for business.

“I look forward to the next steps in Hamilton’s regeneration and I hope it is a positive sign for the future of our town.”