A couple of days’ ago the SNP announced that every baby in Scotland– or new mother I guess – will be given a ‘baby box.’ Gloss over the slight technicality that ‘will’ should of course read ‘… if we get back into power.’ The proposal seems to be modelled on a long-standing Finnish scheme which is as much about the box as about its helpful contents (baby clothes, food samples etc etc) … because the box ensures, or maybe helps minimise, the chance of cot death, a horrible thing when it happens.
I only caught up with this news today when I tweeted my spoof version of what the box might contain.
Now I’m prepared to admit some of the details and my sense of humour may not be to everyone’s taste, although someone was kind, indeed perceptive, enough to say it was worthy of Private Eye. [Hislop – do you need a Scottish correspondent? Modest retainer secures]
Twitter, at least that small corner of it that adheres to the SNP, went into overdrive and in less than a day I was accused of things that regular readers will probably guess at even before I list them i.e.
- Doing Scotland down
- Being shamefully indifferent to infant mortality
- Conceiving of the named person scheme as ‘evil’
- Deriding ‘need and life’ (sic)
- Exemplifying the ‘Scottish cringe’
- Being a member of the Tory party
- Told to f*** off because I was an f****** f***** and, an old favourite,
- Having an un-natural interest in small children, this last related inevitably to the old claim that the entire British establishment has been involved in a continuous cover-up of child sexual abuse since the year dot blah blah blah.
At this point, as I usually do, I switched off, noting that the last hallucination came on the same day that Nicola Sturgeon was filmed with some small children painting the SNP logo on plates and mugs. That (see my various other posts on the SNP and small children) is a different form of abuse although of course no-one in their right mind would levy the sort of charge of un-natural interest in children against SNP politicians that comes so glibly to some nationalists on social media about their opponents.
Amidst all this, two nationalists, one demonstrating allegiance to the SNP and one not, got the point and realised that it was a JOKE and were kind enough to see its funny side. Kudos too to the individual who quickly photoshopped a baby box containing my preferred items and offered it to the very cross man who called me a f***** and who was indeed behaving like a small child.
The point of course, as I reminded one of my more reasonable protagonists at some stage during the day, is that I was perpetrating none of the things in the list above but I was having a pop at the SNP, because this is, er, election time.
Regardless of the merits of the baby box idea, what interested me was the fact that the SNP have formed the Scottish government now for nine years and in all that time no-one has heard a word about the possibility until scarcely more than two weeks before the Holyrood election. I assume it’ll now feature in the SNP manifesto but, who knows, for all their vaunted efficiency they have been unable as of today to get that out to a desperate electorate.
A couple of sceptics did claim that the sudden and unexpected interest by the SNP in the baby box idea was because it’s going to be piloted in England (confirmed by Huffington Post) and the SNP, of course, don’t want to be caught being less progressive than Eng-er-land and its Toary government. In any event, I haven’t seen any research or proposal describing how it might work in Scotland and what its merits, based on evidence, might be. However, various people have posted images of graphs online showing how infant mortality has fallen dramatically and virtually continuously in Scotland and throughout the Western world since the 19th century without baby boxes. As outlined sketchily so far the SNP’s idea does sound like yet something else that’s going to be ‘free’ and provided to all new parents, regardless of income and parenting capability.
I’m neither for nor against a scheme at the moment until I see more evidence. I am against the shameless way the idea emerged from nowhere without that evidence to back it up and just before an election.
Meantime, if there’s anything in my own baby box contents that’s confusing, do feel free to ask why it’s there. You might even get a serious response.