Reform Scotland calls for a ‘virtual voucher’ to widen access to nurseries for working parents


Reform Scotland, the independent, non-party think tank, has called for the introduction of a ‘virtual voucher’ to help Scotland’s working parents access government-funded nursery provision.

Although the Scottish Government has a policy of offering all three- and four-year-olds 600 hours of funded nursery provision per year, many children are missing out as many working parents cannot find council nurseries which offer suitable hours.

Some local authorities allow parents to use their child’s entitlement to attend a partnership nursery.  However, others, such as Glasgow, are limiting the number of funded places available.

Reform Scotland has accused those councils of putting political ideology ahead of children’s needs.

Full details can be seen here, in Reform Scotland’s briefing.

Commenting, Reform Scotland’s Research Director Alison Payne said:

“This is not about the private sector versus the public sector, but acknowledging that most council nurseries do not provide the full-time care that working parents need, and therefore, for all children to be guaranteed to receive government-funded nursery provision, the money must follow the child.

“We have a simple suggestion – if an independent nursery meets the Education Scotland and Care Inspectorate standards, parents should by right be able to take their full government-funded entitlement there as a ‘virtual voucher’.

“This is not radical and already happens in some areas in Scotland.  However, Reform Scotland believes that this should extend to all working families in Scotland.

“We accept and commend the work many politicians are doing to try to help parents remain in, or get back into, work.  However, this means that policies with regard to nursery provision need to reflect this goal, and that requires enabling parents to take up their child’s nursery entitlement at an establishment which fits in with their working pattern.”



  1. The briefing can be read here.
  2. Reform Scotland is an independent, non-party think tank that aims to set out a better way to deliver increased economic prosperity and more effective public services based on the traditional Scottish principles of limited government, diversity and personal responsibility. Further information is available at
  3. The campaign group Fair funding for our kids (, was set up in response to the inability of working parents to access partnership nursery places in Glasgow.
  4. The majority of state nurseries, though this will vary from council to council, offer around 3 hours a day, for 5 days a week during the school year – which makes up the 600 hours funded by the Scottish Government.
  5. Media contact: Andy Maciver / Peter Duncan, Message Matters, 07855 261 244 / 07740 469 949 or /