How to make a meal of standing up for Scotland

THE children in Primary One to Three might be too young to understand yet, but we all know there is no such thing as a free lunch.

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Of course free school meals are a good idea, every political party agrees, even though they are making a very good job of falling out over it.

The LibDem leader Nick Clegg announced it with Tory approval in England and Wales, now the SNP is implementing it in Scotland and, despite voting against the motion, Labour has backed it too.

Just ask the city council - it makes sense.

Children who are well fed and watered are better able to concentrate and learn. That also applies to those from P4 upwards, but let's agree it is a start.

Of course there is the argument that better off parents can afford to pay for school meals, but if we look at it as part of education then it's available to all and should be extended to older kids when budgets allow.

So how come it has caused the big falling out this week between the two biggest parties, with the SNP accusing Labour of opposing giving kids a dinner?

Well it's the referendum and the need for both parties to create divisions when they are not there and make them even wider when they are.

We are all paying for this free lunch when it comes to politics, where instead of seeing an opportunity to improve educational attainment and learning conditions, it is seen as an opportunity to paint the other side as the bad guy.

The SNP motion which Labour opposed included a statement that backed independence, so of course Labour will vote against it.

In turn, Labour produce an amendment including more cash on childcare now, which they know the SNP can't possibly support. Cue the engineered and false row, all with September 18 in mind.

"You voted against free meals for children"..."You voted against extra childcare for parents".

It is all about creating sticks to beat each other with so one side comes out as a winner, but it's the rest of us who are the losers.

When the Tories at Westminster make cuts both are opposed and outraged, yet they manage to position themselves poles apart.

Even when in this case the Tories give money for something, it ends up in a playground fight. This is dangerous because while, between now and September, the SNP and Labour are sworn enemies, afterwards there is country to be run and either way it has to mean change.

Whether it's independence or continued devolution with or without greater powers, the problems of poverty, the economy and the business of running a country remain. Scotland will either have to forge a brand new state or make devolution work better to deal with them depending on the choice the people make.

Either way a Scottish Parliament united behind the same aim is required and in 2015 there will be no time for playground politics.

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