The Scottish government has confirmed an official rollout of its ‘Best Start’ food vouchers programme, following a successful trial.

The programme, formerly known as ‘Healthy Start’, offers free vouchers every week to pregnant mothers, or those with a child under four years old, to buy basic foods.

It was announced earlier this year that the existing paper vouchers would be replaced with a payment card.

However, retailers expressed concern after it was revealed that, despite an ‘approved’ list of products, customers would be free to buy anything.

Scottish district president Hussan Lal said he is in support of the scheme, despite initial warnings that the credit could be abused.

“I would encourage all retailers to get involved,” he said. “When the trial was announced, there were concerns that the credit could be used to buy cigarettes and alcohol, but my advice to retailers is for them to act responsibly where they can.”

A trial was launched involving 1,000 retailers using the new card system earlier this year.

Concerns over alcohol inclusion in government’s Best Start programme

“The balance will be transferred onto the card automatically, which can be used as contactless or chip and pin,” said Lal.

He added that it will provide an opportunity for retailers to interact more with their customers. “We will be advertising that we run the scheme in store by putting posters up, and putting leaflets on the counter,” he said.

“We will be interacting with customers who we know have young children. It’s easy money for retailers, and a sale in the till, so I urge them all to take part.”

The payments include £17 every four weeks during pregnancy; £34 every four weeks from your child being born up until they are one year old; and £17 every four weeks between the ages of one and three.

The official rollout was confirmed in a meeting at Holyrood last week with the Scottish government.

The Scottish Grocers Federation and the Best Start initiative