What we need is innovation, but all the SNP can offer us is government by gimmickry
FOR centuries, parents somehow managed to look after their newborns without ‘organic muslin squares’ or ‘satin-edged cellular blankets’.
But you see, they simply weren’t doing it right — and that’s why the SNP has mass produced ‘baby boxes’ at enormous expense, containing these gems.
Ordinary muslin or blankets that weren’t satin-edged won’t do for the bairns of tomorrow, who are also treated to a ‘long-sleeved bodysuit with integral scratch mitten’.
A box filled to the brim with these goodies will be handed out to new mothers from the summer, complete with a poem in the Scots language by Scotland’s Makar, Jackie Kay (whether you want it or not).
The idea is that baby essentials such as dribble bibs, ‘natural bath sponges’ and real nappies — none of those environmentally hazardous disposable ones — should be available to all.
There is also an important claim that the boxes help to reduce cot deaths because they can be used for the baby to sleep in, discouraging risky ‘co-sleeping’, where the baby is in the parents’ bed.
But quite why anyone would willingly accommodate their new child in a box, rather than a Moses basket or cot, is frankly anyone’s guess.
You might also wonder if more energetic babies would topple the box — but if you question the scheme on Twitter, be prepared for a Cybernat-fuelled storm of abuse.
Nasty Unionists can’t even welcome a box of baby goodies, they write — that is the extent of their partisan hatred: imagine harbouring that level of animosity for a wean…
The trouble is that Nicola Sturgeon’s vanity project is rather expensive — as the Mail revealed yesterday, the price of the scheme has risen to £35.3million — more than £7million over budget.
Even those who can afford to buy these goods themselves — or who will be gifted them by relatives — will receive a baby box.
It’s a giant waste of money at a time when the NHS is so cash-strapped that hospitals have launched DIY nursing schemes, asking families to help care for relatives.
Aside from the cost and the muddled priorities, there’s also the slight problem that the argument in favour of universal provision of baby boxes is based on flimsy foundations.
Professor Tuovi Hakulinen, of the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland, where baby boxes have been around for decades, has said there is no direct link between the boxes and mortality rates.
The nature of the scheme with its ‘primary focus’ firmly on public health — despite the dubious science behind it — means it is easier for Miss Sturgeon and her supporters to portray its critics as compassionless.
But the reality is that baby boxes, however well-intentioned, are just another example of government by gimmickry.
It’s not as if the NHS doesn’t have enough problems, either — with nurses threatening to strike over pay, extreme GP shortages putting extra strain on A&E departments and patients languishing on trolleys in hospital corridors.
Any meaningful debate about structural reform of the NHS is impossible because politicians fear a backlash if they question its founding principle of healthcare free at the point of delivery — even if the system plainly isn’t working.
Far easier to reach for a gimmick and dare your opponents to challenge it, so you can smear them as callous NHS-haters.
So the SNP keeps pouring taxpayers’ cash into a top-heavy NHS stuffed with fat cats.
At the same time, it has abolished prescription charges, even for those who could afford to pay, so the state now bankrolls tubes of Bonjela, bottles of Covonia chesty cough medicine, and Nurofen lemon meltlets.
‘Free’ higher education for native Scots is also great in theory and makes us look so much more enlightened than our southern neighbours, who still charge students.
But our campuses still have the lowest percentage of state school pupils and college students in the UK — and the highest drop-out rates.
The last thing the SNP wants to do is to get involved in the messy business of reforming public services.
The strategy is to keep a low profile and hope that their chronic under-performance somehow goes unnoticed by the electorate.
Trying to fix failing state schools has proved too difficult and contentious, so the Nationalists, having delayed an Education Bill, are devoting all their efforts instead towards pressing for another referendum that few of us actually want.
This creates the perfect conditions for vanity exercises, like Miss Sturgeon’s recent selfie-driven ego trip to the US, or a host of other fripperies masquerading as bold policy.
The alleged boldness of these initiatives is supposedly evidenced by their universal delivery — everyone benefits.
Hence ‘free’ school meals for all pupils in P1–3, regardless of parental income, despite crippling staff shortages leaving Scottish classrooms among the most crowded in the developed world.
Named Person — the SNP scheme which amounted to a proposal for state surveillance of children — was declared largely unlawful by judges at the UK’s highest court, the Supreme Court, last year.
The idea of the state monitoring the wellbeing of all children, regardless of their family background and level of need, proved controversial even for some of its backers.
Its universalism would undoubtedly mean fewer resources for children most in need.
But for a government that operates like a student union protest group, forever locked in campaigning mode, this kind of charade is necessary.
It allows ministers to pose as standard-bearers for the needy and vulnerable — while failing to do anything substantial to tackle their plight.
Miss Sturgeon’s fury over the so-called ‘rape clause’ demonstrates that this is a government more at home with protest and agitation than the trickier business of governing.
Under new UK Government reforms, no parent will be able to claim child tax credits for any more than two children.
The ‘rape clause’ is an exemption to ensure women who have a child as a result of rape can receive further tax credits.
Miss Sturgeon has branded the policy ‘disgusting and disgraceful’ as it forces rape victims to choose between lower benefits or disclosing the rape to the Government.
(Incidentally, don’t forget that the police watchdog recently found that some victims of sex crime in Scotland have to wait two days without washing before being seen by doctors — the sort of injustice the SNP would rather we didn’t talk about.)
The Scottish Tories unsportingly point out Miss Sturgeon now has the power to create new welfare payments in any area — so introducing a ‘large family benefit’ in Scotland would effectively abolish the ‘rape clause’.
Champions of the sick, the poor, the vulnerable, and babies snuggled under their satin-edged cellular blankets, the SNP is indeed all about compassion — just as long as it suits its own narrow political purposes.