Parents in East Renfrewshire have run up £12,000 worth of debt from unpaid school meals, new figures show.

The amount was revealed to the Scottish Greens, who have called on the Scottish Government to write off school meal debts which have reached more than £1million across Scotland.

Every child at a council-run primary school in East Renfrewshire can get free lunches in the first three years.

Youngsters are also able to get free school lunches after primary three if their parents or caregivers receive benefits or tax credits.

The Scottish Greens received details of school meal debts after submitting a Freedom of Information request to all 32 of the country’s local authorities.

READ MORE: Families feel the pinch as council approves hike in school meal costs

East Renfrewshire Council operates a cashless payment system for school meals and encourages parents and carers to use an online payment system. 

Reminders are sent when payments are not made and, if there is no response, the school then contacts parents to seek the reasons for the non-payment.

Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer called the nationwide level of school meal debts “astonishing” and said it should now be written off.

Mr Greer, whose West Scotland remit includes East Renfrewshire, told the Barrhead News:

“Children are going hungry and we know that means-tested free school meals miss out far too many families who need them.

“This school meal debt should be written off immediately.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said any family that faces financial difficulties but does not meet national eligibility criteria for free school meals can speak to their local authority to access appropriate advice and assistance.

He added: “The Scottish Government introduced free school meals for all primary one to three pupils four years ago and has extended eligibility for lower-income households.

“Healthy and nutritious free school meals benefit pupils’ learning and health and can save eligible families around £400 per child per year, part of our £1.4billion support for low-income households.”