Nicola Sturgeon to focus on commitment to childcare in keynote conference speech

Updated: 

Nicola Sturgeon will say the SNP's commitment to childcare is unrivalled 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 in Glasgow 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 for three and four-year-olds and eligible two year olds by the end of the parliament.

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

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 £420 million a year in early years education and childcare. I can announce today that by the end of this Parliament, that will rise to £840 million 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 ten years and beyond".

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

Nicola Sturgeon applauds
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the SEC in Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)

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."

???? It was a busy second day at #SNP17. Catch up on what happened. pic.twitter.com/b6qWjumcQd

-- The SNP (@theSNP) October 9, 2017

Scottish Labour interim leader Alex Rowley said: "Once again, Nicola Sturgeon has been forced to re-announce that education is her top priority - but the reality is schools are struggling under the SNP with 4,000 fewer teachers, 1,000 fewer support staff and an attainment gap that is as stubborn as ever.

"The situation is now so bad that she has been forced to re-announce a commitment made two years ago.

"Nicola Sturgeon should listen to teachers, unions, parents and the Scottish Labour Party, and stop the cuts to Scotland's future.

"Only Labour will use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver an education system that works for the many, not the few."