Emma Roddick MSP: Scotland’s Baby Box Transforming Lives

It was great to see the revamped Baby Boxes at Holyrood last week and to hear what a difference this Scottish Government policy is making to the lives of families across Scotland.

Of course, the Baby Box holds a special place in the hearts of many Orkney families, who were among the first in the country to receive the original ones back in 2017. The Scottish Government carried out a three-month pilot between January and March that year, with Orkney and Clackmannanshire the two areas chosen. In total, 160 boxes were distributed to families with a due date in the pilot period, 49 of these to new-born Orkney babies.

According to the latest figures of boxes distributed by health boards, 235,622 boxes have been distributed across Scotland since the start of the scheme, with 908 having gone to families in Orkney.

Scotland’s baby box is one of many transformative actions that the SNP Scottish Government is taking to make a real difference to children and families on low incomes – like the game-changing Scottish Child Payment, which will soon be £25 per week per child.

Another area where costs are being saved in part of the Highlands and Islands just now is around electricity prices. It is great to see the folk in Knoydart benefiting from their own electricity system, as it means that they are isolated from the skyrocketing prices the rest of us on the privatised UK system are experiencing. Despite our electricity being generated largely from renewables we are still charged as if it is coming from an expensive gas-fuelled power station. This is a highly damaging inequity, causing real damage to lives across this region as fuel poverty rates rise, but at least the 120 residents of Knoydart are able to avoid it thanks to the hydroelectric scheme run by Knoydart Renewables.

I know that folk in Orkney have been hearing about how the publicly owned energy system in the Canadian province of Quebec has kept electricity prices low in the current climate – 7p a unit compared to our 33p in the north of Scotland – but there may be lessons to be learned closer to home. Perhaps Orkney could become the next ‘off-grid’ area to be able to make its renewable generation work for the local population rather than shareholders.

Still on the theme of being hit by policies controlled by the Tories at Westminster, it is shocking that the Highlands and Islands is being short-changed by £18.8 million compared to what it received as a member of the European Union. Previously, EU funding to support economic development in this region was worth £28.3 million. The UK’s replacement funding is worth only £9.4 million.

This is a huge loss to the region at a time where investment is critical to the future of our rural and island communities.

We need to rejoin the EU as an independent country and stop leaving big decisions in the hands of incompetent governments in London who do not care about us.

This is a regular column by Emma Roddick SNP. All Highlands and Islands Regional MSPs have been offered the same space in the Orkney News to share their personal views