It’s a real pleasure and a privilege – as well as a whirlwind – to represent the Highlands and Islands in the Scottish Parliament. On top of my constituency work I am also now enjoying my new role a Minister for Childcare and Early Years – or the Baby Box Minister as one dad said to me!
I am really pleased that the boxes, which were of course successfully piloted in Orkney, have been very well received throughout Scotland, with 100% of parents either satisfied or very satisfied with them. It’s great to hear how positive parents are about the Baby Box and also find out first-hand what else we can do to make next year’s roll-out even more successful in supporting parents during those crucial early months.
The Baby Box is part of a range of measures to ensure that every baby born in Scotland is given the best possible start in life. It will help tackle deprivation, improve health and support families, and we’re proud it has already become an important and exciting part of the journey to parenthood in Scotland. That is why our recent draft budget outlined significant investment in the early years to continue to deliver this box of essential items and our wider package of support for parents.
Childcare and Early Years is a fantastic portfolio. I come away from every visit feeling inspired by the young folk I meet. They are the now and future of our country and investing in their formative years is crucial.
And so often our young folk are way ahead of the rest of us. Since I became an MSP, and long before Blue Planet 2 was broadcast, children from Ullapool primary school have been lobbying me about marine litter. Not only have they organised beach cleans in their area, they have also been very effective in getting tourist businesses to give up plastic straws!
I am delighted that 2018 is to be our ‘Year of Young People’. In a global first, Scotland is leading the way in giving our young people such a significant platform to showcase their ambitions, talents and achievements.
It has been a great year for positive progress throughout Scotland, thanks to Bills introduced or passed at Holyrood, including the unanimous backing for the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill, which will make Scotland the only part of the UK to have statutory targets to tackle child poverty. However, as we head into the Christmas and New Year holiday period there is much to celebrate and to forward to, including the Social Security Bill and the recently announced progressive tax reforms. There is a real appetite for bold and ambitious change in Scotland.
For years I thought that Politics was not for me; as a woman, a mum, a Highlander. If I achieve nothing else in my time in office, but manage to inspire one young Highlander – or indeed an islander – to think I can do that too, then it will have all been worth it.
This is a regular column by local MSP Maree Todd, SNP