Almost £1 billion a year is to be invested to fund a huge expansion of early learning and childcare in Scotland.
Scottish Ministers and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) leaders have reached agreement on a multi-year funding package.
This will see the Scottish Government invest an additional £567 million per year by 2021-22 to ensure that every child can access 1,140 hours of fully funded early learning and childcare, bringing total annual public spend on early learning and childcare to around £990 million.
In addition, the Scottish government will provide councils with total capital funding of £476 million over four years to support associated buildings projects.
Childcare Minister Maree Todd, said: “With thanks to councils the expansion plans are now well underway and will be backed by almost one billion pounds of annual public investment by 2021-22.
“I am delighted that we have reached agreement on funding with our partners in COSLA, reflecting the importance of this policy priority.
“This is great news for children and families across Scotland.
“This is a landmark agreement, which marks the culmination of more than two years of hard work to establish a robust shared understanding of the costs attached to the expansion.
“I am grateful to all those in local authorities who have worked tirelessly to prepare expansion plans and cost estimates.
“As we now move into a delivery phase, I look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners in local government.
“Making sure that all children get the best possible start in life is a key priority for this government and the evidence tells us that if our early learning and childcare offer is to help give children the best start in life and contribute to closing the poverty-related attainment gap, it has to be of high quality.
“That is why we are determined to get this right and ensure that the right amount of funding is in place.”
COSLA’s resources spokesperson Councillor Gail Macgregor said: “This is a landmark agreement between the two spheres of government in Scotland.
“Local government is fully committed to early learning and childcare expansion to 1140 hours.
“COSLA and Scotland’s council leaders are fully behind the policy.”
COSLA’s education spokesperson Councillor Stephen McCabe said: “In my role as COSLA’s Children and Young people Spokesperson my main objective is to ensure that every child in Scotland is offered the best possible start in life, today’s agreement sets us down this road.
“This is a bold deal between national and local government on a transformational policy that will be beneficial for the young people of Scotland.
“It would be good if, going forward, we could replicate the joint working that we have achieved in this policy area across the board.”