FIRST Minister Humza Yousaf has said his Government will set aside cash to wipe out Scotland’s school meal debt.

With Finance Secretary Shona Robison set to announce the Budget on Tuesday, it has been revealed families will get a major boost with an emergency pot – thought to be worth around £1.5 million – to be created for writing off the debt.

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth confirmed the news on Monday in response to a question from SNP MSP Bill Kidd.

The Scottish Greens have campaigned for several years on the issue and are "delighted" with the decision. 

According to The Scottish Sun, parents of more than 30,000 kids have been chased for school meal payments, with some councils sending in debt collectors to recoup funds.

Research by the paper revealed a total of £1,763,762 was owed by pupils for their lunches – an increase of 60% on last year’s figure.

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Charity bosses have welcomed the move which will help ease the burden on those families struggling to make ends meet.

Children’s charity Aberlour had warned debt has started to rack up again, leaving stressed families feeling ashamed.

The problem is mainly affecting low-income families who do not quality for free school meals, which are a means-tested benefit.

In response to a letter sent by The Sun and Aberlour to the First Minister, Yousaf replied: "You will be aware that the Scottish Government is committed to supporting families across Scotland during these difficult economic times – including the game-changing Scottish Child Payment as part of a package of measures which are seeing an estimated 90,000 fewer children in Scotland live in poverty this year.

"However, we are not complacent and continue to look at ways we can further support people across the country.

“While school meal debt is ultimately a matter for councils, I am conscious of the fact that we are in a midst of a cost-of-living crisis as a result of Brexit and the UK Government’s disastrous  mismanagement of the economy.”

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Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer said the writing off of debt with be a significant weight off families' shoulders.

He said: "We know that young people struggle in school if they’re hungry or stressed by their family being chased for money they cannot afford to pay, so I’m delighted the First Minister has agreed to Scottish Greens proposals to wipe out this debt.

“Not only has chasing this debt caused anxiety and embarrassment for students and their families, but I have spoken to school staff who hate being put in the position of asking pupils for money they know the family does not have.

“This is another important step being taken by the Scottish Government to protect children from Westminster’s cost of living crisis."

Aberlour’s research has found that children in primary schools not eligible for free school meals will still get fed at school, even if they have no money on their pre-pay account or don’t have a packed lunch.

But the cost of that school meal is added to their account – meaning debt begins to build up.

Children in high school would often have to ensure “stigmatising” processes to get something to eat, such as having to tell staff they have no money for their lunch.

The charity has called for income thresholds for free school meals to be increased.

It has also been reported Yousaf could introduce a new income tax band for high earners when financial plans are announced on Tuesday.

However, Robison refused to confirm this on the BBC's Sunday Show.