Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme: Implementation and Operation Group minutes: March 2023

Minutes from the meeting held on 8 March 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Scottish Government, Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme (Chair) (SG)
  • Scottish Government, Early Learning and Childcare team (ELC)
  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA)
  • School and Nursery Milk Alliance (SNMA)
  • Cool Milk
  • McQueens Dairies
  • ASSIST Facilities Management
  • Public Health Scotland
  • Muller Milk and Ingredients
  • National Farming Union of Scotland (NFUS)


  • Scotland Excel
  • National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA)

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies

The chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and members introduced themselves.

Minutes and actions from previous meeting

 The group were content with the minutes from the previous meeting and for them to be published on the Scottish Government (SG) website. (Action 1)

Update on consultation and data collection exercises

The Chair provided a summary of the last meeting held in June 2022 and confirmed the aim of the intended data collection exercise is to inform the Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme (SMHSS) going forward on the cost of milk, non-dairy alternatives and healthy snacks.

The Chair provided an update on discussions with Learning Directorate colleagues who lead on the Scottish School Milk Scheme. It was identified that a combined data collection exercise would bring cost and time efficiencies, for example, local authorities, suppliers and settings would only need to be contacted once for data.

The Chair explained that SG had initially explored the potential to undertake the data collection exercise “in-house” but unfortunately due to the proposed scale of the data collection exercise and priority work on other areas, the only option was to move towards external procurement.

The Chair highlighted that due to the SG spending review exercise in 2022, it had been necessary to pause the procurement whilst wider budget considerations were undertaken. This impacted on the progression of the data collection exercise. However, the spending review exercise concluded in December 2022 and enabled SG to move forward with plans for procuring the data collection contractor.

At present SG are finalising the specification for a procurement exercise and anticipate that data collection will commence in spring 2023. SG will update the group once procurement of the data collection has gone live and will also share the tender specification document. (Action 2)

There was discussion around sharing the tender specification with the group prior to it going live. The Chair confirmed that this could not be shared in advance due to a potential conflict of interest.

The Chair confirmed that the national single flat rate of 58.2p is intended to remain in place for financial year 2023-24 (once agreed with COSLA and Local Authority Leaders) and highlighted the importance of the data collection exercise in informing the SMHSS moving forward.

COSLA sought clarity on the data collection exercise also covering the Scottish School Milk Scheme offer, in order to avoid duplication of data collection with the SG free school meal team. The Chair confirmed that it is the same team within Learning Directorate who lead on both free school meals and the Scottish School Milk Scheme and that it was their decision to join the data collection exercise with the SMHSS. It was agreed that SG and COSLA colleagues will liaise separately with Learning Directorate colleagues to make sure there is no duplication of information being gathered across both data collection exercises. (Action 3)

Update on reconciliation exercise

SG outlined that funding is issued to the local authorities upfront, based on an assumed percentage uptake of eligible children within a local authority area. This is then multiplied by the national single flat rate of 58.2p and the assumed 175 days the settings are open for in that financial year.

SG are currently working with COSLA on the reconciliation exercise for 2022-23 that will include an update on registration figures up to and including 31 March 2023 and will reimburse local authorities for actual spend based on actual number of servings provided and actual number of days the settings were open in that financial year. It was also highlighted that the upcoming data collection exercise will help inform local government SMHSS funding distribution for the coming financial year 2023-24.

McQueens Dairy sought a view on the ambition to reconcile payments with settings that have not fully spent their funds. It was felt that the costs on purchases will vary and there could be a significant difference in what has been spent. The Chair explained that at present settings receive the single national flat rate of 58.2p for every eligible child for each day they attend their childcare setting for 2 hours or more.

The Chair further explained that if milk is purchased at a cheaper rate then the expectation would be for the remainder of those funds to be used to purchase high quality fruit and vegetables and that this is reflected in the SMHSS guidance document. However, it was reiterated that how this is managed is down to each local authority and their audit processes on monitoring spend. The Chair also highlighted the need for the data collection exercise to better understand costs for each of the products eligible for purchase within the SMHSS.

Update on registration figures as at 1 August 2022 (Paper 3)

SG provided an update on the SMHSS registration figures. The data shows that as at 1 August 2022 there were 3,220 childcare settings and 730 childminders settings registered. When compared with August 2021, this is an increase of 146 childcare settings but shows a reduction of 30 childminder settings. The data also shows that there were 119,627 children registered. When compared with August 2021, this is an increase of 3,334 children registered.

The data also shows that the number of childminder settings and children in childminding settings has declined. This trend is also reflected in data SG received from the Care Inspectorate regarding the number of childminders registered to the Care Inspectorate over the last 3 years. The data shows a decline in childminder settings overall in Scotland from 4,656 as at 10 March 2020 to 3,506 as at 31 January 2023.

The group were informed that the Care Inspectorate Annual Return for 2022-23 have again included questions related to the SMHSS which will aid understanding of how the Scheme is performing. A summary report on the findings is due in May 2023 which will be shared with the group once it becomes available. (Action 4)

The Chair invited the group to provide feedback on the results of the registration data exercise and how it might be possible to further increase registrations, particularly for childminder settings.

SG ELC noted that the feedback they have received from childminder settings is that the paperwork is time consuming and that uptake to the SMHSS may increase if there is less paperwork to complete. The Chair acknowledged that this has been raised before and it is something SG are exploring how to best support all settings, suppliers and local authority partners to find an easier process. It was highlighted that an online system has been considered but has been impacted by the recent spend restrictions. (Action 5)

SCMA agreed that there has been a crisis in the childminding workforce since 2016 which has seen a 34% decline. They highlighted that bureaucracy is a real issue within the childminding sector which will contribute to childminders not participating in the SMHSS. However, it was noted that as the wider context within the childminder sector changes in a positive way it might then see childminders willing to take on registering to the SMHSS.

SCMA explained that they have released an urban recruitment project to bring relevant skills into the childminding sector. They highlighted that they recently released the findings of the childminding audit exercise which contains reasons as to why the childminding levels have fallen and offered to share the findings with the group. The Chair confirmed that these findings would be useful for SG analysts to assist with the data collection exercise. (Action 6)

ADES were keen to understand if there is a breakdown of registrations between rural and urban populations, or even a breakdown per local authority area. ADES explained that rurality seems to be an issue, particularly for childminders settings and it would be useful to see if there are any trends for this. It was agreed that SG will make contact with the ADES representative to discuss further with the intention of sharing a paper with the wider group on the findings at a later date. (Action 7)

ASSIST made the group aware that costs look to be higher in rural areas compared to urban and that the single flat rate of 58.2p looks to be covering the costs but referenced that recent costs have increased and even sourcing fruit and vegetables has become challenging for the rural areas.

SG ELC commented on the ELC food offer and that a rural local authority had contacted them highlighting that they have been finding it difficult to source food for delivery to rural settings because of their location. SG ELC are looking into this in more detail.

NFUS commented that fruit and vegetable prices have increased by 11% compared to last year (2022) and farmers received a 2% decrease in the price.

NFUS highlighted that supply and demand determines price even if inflation increases. Muller Milk commented that the commodity cost outside of milk are increasing. The value of cream is decreasing which is where dairies usually hope to make a profit. It was discussed that reduced prices paid to farmers does not necessarily mean consumer price reduction.

SG highlighted that the costs for non-dairy alternative drinks is also affected by inflation and again highlights the importance of carrying out a data collection exercise.

The Chair confirmed that a rolling update on registration data will be provided to the group. (Action 8)

Feedback from members on SMHSS in 2022/23

The Chair invited feedback/updates from the group. There was no further feedback/updates from the group in relation to what has been covered in the agenda so far.

Communication strategy (Paper 4)

SG provided an update reflecting on registration uptake and stakeholder engagement. SG intend to develop a communication and engagement strategy to share with the group to maximise opportunities to increase registration to the scheme.

It was noted that the SMHSS mailbox has had some queries from childminder settings looking for more information to take part in the scheme. There have been no emails highlighting issues with settings not able to afford the purchasing of milk, healthy snack or non-dairy alternatives.

SG attended the Children and Young People Improvement Collaborative Learning Session to promote the Scheme by distributing the Children, Settings and Parents communication materials that were issued to the group for sharing with their members on 29 July 2022. This highlighted areas for development – improving parental awareness of SMHSS and settings awareness of the non-dairy alternatives element of SMHSS.

A recent survey carried out by a local authority where uptake of the Scheme has reduced, identified that the scheme is looked at very positively by settings however it highlighted that their monthly payment administration process for their local authority was too bureaucratic. The local authority is discussing how they can increase registrations in their area to increase uptake of the scheme based on this feedback. COSLA provided feedback that they are keen to liaise with SG and ADES to look at how we could assist with the administration side further within the context of the regulations. (Action 9)

SG ELC who lead on updating the ‘Setting the Table Guidance’ felt that it would be helpful to include detailed information about the scheme and the availability of non-dairy alternatives within the guidance and will take this forward. Public Health Scotland (PHS) agreed the information around non-dairy alternatives could be strengthened in the document which could help encourage uptake. (Action 10)

PHS also noted that the ‘Setting the Table Guidance’ will be subject to review once the outcome of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition 1 year to 5 year old report is published in June 2023. A technical working group is being developed to look at the nutritional aspects of the report which may require PHS to update the group on any impact relevant to the SMHSS i.e. non-dairy alternative drinks. (Action 11)

PHS provided further information around work in maternal and infant nutrition and food insecurity and wondered if SMHSS could be promoted through this work. It was noted that PHS also have links with the health and maternal leads and public health nutritionists who have a lot of different contacts within their areas who could help promote the Scheme. (Action 12)

Muller Milk enquired if SG could provide a simple report which has the percentage baseline of children who drink non-dairy alternatives prior to the SMHSS launching, what it is at now and what will it be with the new data. SG explained that data on the uptake of non-dairy alternatives in general is not well known but referenced the Care Inspectorate Annual Report which will contain some relevant information but this only covered post SMHSS launch. (Action 13)

Any other business

SG colleagues are keen to take part in a dairy and/or farm visit and NFUS colleagues kindly agreed to look into this and feedback. (Action 14)

Date of next meeting

The next meeting will be held in May/June 2023. (Action 15)

Summary of actions

Action 1: SG to publish minutes from meeting 4 on the SG website.

Action 2: SG to email and share the tender specification document with the group once the data collection exercise has been issued for tender.

Action 3: SG and COSLA to liaise separately with Learning Directorate colleagues to make sure there is no duplication of information being gathered across the free school meal data collection exercise and the SMHSS/Scottish School Milk Scheme collection exercise.

Action 4: SG to share the Care Inspectorate Annual Returns for 2022-23 summary report with the group when it becomes available in May 2023.

 Action 5: SG to revisit the online portal for registrations to the SMHSS.

Action 6: SCMA to share findings of the childminding audit exercise and for SG to relay onto SG analysts for information.

Action 7: SG to make contact with ADES to inform the drafting of a paper relating to a breakdown of registrations between rural and urban populations.

Action 8: SG to provide a rolling update on registration data with the group.

Action 9: SG, COSLA and ADES to look at how we could assist with the administration side within local authorities within the context of the regulations.

Action 10: SG ELC to work with Public Health Scotland on making sure non-dairy alternative information is captured in the ‘Setting the Table Guidance’ document.

Action 11: Public Health Scotland to update SG on the findings of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition 1 year to 5 year old report once published in June 2023.

 Action 12: SG and Public Health Scotland to discuss creating links with health and maternal leads and public health nutritionists to help promote the SMHSS.

Action 13: SG to consider the drafting of a report which has the percentage baseline of children who drink non-dairy alternatives prior to the SMHSS launching, what it is at now and what will it be with the new data.

Action 14: NFUS to identify a dairy farm visit location for SG colleagues.

Action 15: SG to organise Meeting 6 for May/June 2023.

Back to top