Tantrums of a different nature are being experienced in Peeblesshire nurseries at the hands of a controversial roll-out of the Scottish government’s ambitious plans to double childcare hours.

Despite the increase in early years childcare provision from 600 to 1,140 hours annually, angry parents have hit out at Scottish Borders Council’s decision, which sees half of Peebles benefitting from the increase in August 2019, with other nurseries last on the priority list.

Local authorities were set with the task of determining the phase of the expanded hours, whilst taking into account areas affected by child poverty.

The roll-out for Peebles means that those living in the Kingsland nursery catchment will have the hours upped, with children in the Priorsford area remaining at 600 hours until the Scottish Government roll-out deadline of 2020.

One parent, who does not want to be named, slammed the Council roll-out as “shambolic” and said it has widened inequality in Peebles.

He said: “We have been pretty shabbily treated here in Peebles. The rest of the UK has had this for a while and other councils have rolled it out already.

“It’s unfair, Peebles is being split on an arbitrary measure. Had we moved to Kingsland catchment, which is within one mile of my house, we would be benefiting from it.”

He added: “I appreciate that there’s poverty in Peebles, however we’ll now have a child at private nursery beside kids whose entire place will be funded purely because of where they live. Surely it would have been fairer to take stock of all kids and then allocate an equal basis working up to 1140 hours.”

Conservative Councillor Leader, Shona Haslam claims the split is a result of Scottish Government policy and says the local authority is not to blame.

She told the Peeblesshire News: “I am extremely sympathetic to those who think this is an unfair situation. The Scottish Government laid down very strict criteria that the Council had to adhere to in deciding how this should be rolled out.

“It was based on deprivation statistics that take very large parts of our community as a whole. This means that a few very wealthy streets cancel out large areas of deprivation and change the results.”

Councillor Haslam said she has raised the issue directly with the SNP Government to no avail and is recommending those concerned write directly to Deputy First Minister of Scotland, John Swinney.

“As a Council we had to use their criteria which has led to this split in Peebles. I will continue to raise this with the Government.”

We contacted SNP Councillor Stuart Bell who hit back saying the Council’s Executive Committee could have avoided the split in Peebles.

He added: “Local Authorities are responsible for determining the most appropriate way to phase the expanded hours, reflecting the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. In our area a priority list was created by Council officers, based on that Index and it set out a proposed order of phasing for all catchment communities.

“The Council's Executive Committee could have flexed this if they had wanted to but it was approved by the Executive Committee on the 7th November last year and subsequently ratified by the full Council. I suspect that what happened was that our Executive, who don't scrutinise the detail of their own decisions, didn't spot that the officer proposal split these areas of Peebles. It is ludicrous to suggest that the Scottish Government determines the detail of each of these local decisions.”

Scottish Borders Council told us that the programme of expansion was agreed by full Council on 31st May 2018 which set out the number of catchment communities phasing each year.

A spokesperson said: “Therefore, as agreed by Council, only children who live in the phasing catchments will be able to access expanded hours. This means that each setting there will be children who access expanded hours and children who will continue to access their entitlement of 600 hours.”