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Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 19th March 2020.

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The First Minister:

Jackson Carlaw is absolutely right to highlight the importance of the childcare sector for the business reasons that he set out and for the care of young children right now and for the future, when we are on the other side of this virus. Obviously, we have ambitious plans to double the provision of early years learning and childcare. We want to work to mitigate the impact as far as possible, although I have to be straight with people: we will not be able to do that completely. John Swinney will set out more details on that, among other things, in his statement this afternoon.

However, I take the opportunity to confirm to Parliament that we have decided, as the Government, to guarantee the funding that private and third sector nurseries currently receive from the Scottish budget. That funding pays for the statutory entitlement that children receive in those nurseries and across the private and third sectors, and it is worth around £220 million. We will keep that cash in place, even while children are at home and not at nursery, so that we can help to support businesses through what is a very difficult time. That will be in addition to the work that we will do with councils to maximise the use of private and third sector nurseries to provide childcare to key workers who need it. There will be more detail on that when John Swinney makes his statement later.