NURSERY provision will increase for around 1,500 children in Moray following the passing of a new Scottish government bill.
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill was passed on Wednesday, with 103 MSPs voting for it and with 15 abstentions.
At the heart of the bill is an increase in free childcare for three, four and vulnerable two-year-olds, from 475 to 600 hours –around 16 hours per week – from August.
According to Mr Lochhead, the bill will also give young people a right to stay in care until the age of 21.
The SNP MSP said: "The Children and Young People Bill includes measures that will help improve support for children here in Moray and across Scotland from their early years right through to their early adulthood.
"From August this year, every three, four and looked after two-year-old will benefit from 600 hours of free childcare, benefitting around 1,500 children in Moray alone. By August 2015, this will be extended to include all two-year-olds from the hardest pressed families.
"This increased provision is equivalent to around £700 pounds per child, in funded early learning and childcare."
According to Mr Lochhead, giving young people the right to stay in care until the age of 21 will "transform lives". He described the passing of the bill as a "landmark moment" for looked after children in Scotland.