In the White Paper, Scotland’s Future, produced before the 2014 referendum on Scottish Independence, the Scottish Government committed to rolling out “A transformational extension of childcare, giving our children the best start in life, making it easier for parents – especially mothers – to return to work and delivering new job opportunities.” This commitment included a “phased and sustainable” expansion of free childcare entitlement for three and four year-olds as well as vulnerable two year-olds.
The aim of expanding provision was not only to improve the life chances of children as part of an overarching strategy to tackle child poverty, but also to increase participation in the labour market by parents, particularly women, with young children. The Scottish Government committed to investment in building high-quality nursery and day care facilities; recruitment and training to grow and upskill the workforce; and regulation, inspection and quality assurance of childcare services.
In 2016, the Scottish Government moved forward with its plans for the expansion of childcare provision, outlined its consultation paper. This involves an increase in the childcare entitlement from 600 hours to 1140 hours per year for all three and four year-olds as well as vulnerable two year-olds. It also creates obligations on local authorities to improve the flexibility of services offered in order to better support parents in finding employment, as well as improving the quality of the childcare provided.