Every child deserves the best start in life, whatever their background.
So I’m proud that, in the last week, the Scottish Government has officially rolled out its Baby Box scheme nationwide.
The parents of all newborn babies in Scotland will now receive a box filled with the essential items needed to support their baby’s first weeks and months.
The SNP are determined to make Scotland one of the best countries in the world to bring up a child, and the Baby Box is just one of the many actions we are taking in government to make that ambition a reality.
This box isn’t just about giving new parents a nice gift, it’s about tackling deprivation, improving health, and supporting parents to give all children in Scotland the best possible life chances.
I love the fact that we’ve learnt from the traditions of our friends in Finland, who have been giving out baby boxes to all newborn children since the 1930s – making them a cherished part of Finnish parenthood.
In Scotland, all parents can register for a Baby Box through their midwife, encouraging a strong link with antenatal services to promote health and wellbeing. 10,000 parents have registered in the first week, and 500 boxes have already been delivered.
The box itself is specially designed by health experts to be used as a crib, providing a safe sleeping place with a mattress and protector.
The contents can help make a real difference – packed full with practical items including thermometers, baby wraps, blankets, play mats, nappies, clothes, bibs, baby books, and important health information.
The fact that it’s a universal scheme, available to all parents who want one, means that all babies can benefit whatever their circumstances. Crucially, those low-income families who need the box most of all won’t face any stigma by receiving one.
Tackling inequality means taking meaningful action from an early age. All the evidence shows that the first few years of a child’s life are crucial for their development and life chances.
That’s why the SNP are taking a wide range of actions to support new parents and their children, so that everyone has an equal chance.
We’ve extended free vitamins to all pregnant women to improve their health, and we’re introducing a new Best Start grant to support low income families with much-needed cash at key stages of a child’s development.
We’re recruiting 500 more health visitors, so that every child benefits from a health development check, and to provide intensive support for those families who need it.
And we’re ensuring the support continues throughout a child’s early years – with a massive expansion of free high-quality early learning and childcare, and by expanding free school meals to improve children’s health and their ability to learn.
These are just some of the measures the SNP are taking to make Scotland a fairer and more equal country for everyone, by ensuring that all children, whatever their circumstances, get the best possible start in life.
This article originally appeared in the Daily Record.