Nicola Sturgeon on the Holyrood baby at one
As Kirsty the Holyrood baby turns one, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the Scottish Government's record on creating a more equitable future for babies like her
Nicola Sturgeon - credit David Anderson
For a decade, this government has worked hard to enhance the life chances of every child in Scotland and I am proud that in 2017, children like Kirsty are growing up in an ever more forward-thinking country.
In fact, in the past year alone, our Fairer Scotland Action Plan, supported by £29m of funding, has already fulfilled many of the 50 bold and ambitious actions we set out to achieve a fairer Scotland for all, end child poverty and ensure a strong start for all young people.
Our new baby box will help reduce the costs of providing for a child in the early days and weeks of life, meaning that Kirsty’s brothers and sisters can be sure of the best start from their birth.
We’re also tackling the ‘poverty premium’, providing people with better access to affordable and healthy food.
We are also working to reduce the attainment gap in schools, promote the living wage and deliver 50,000 affordable homes, with 35,000 for social rent, over the next five years.
Preventing the next generation of young people being born into poverty is vital. This government has introduced a child poverty bill to the Scottish Parliament, which will help us tackle the deep-rooted causes of poverty and put targets into statute. It is a major step forward as we look to give children like Kirsty the best start in life.
Over the last year, we have also made significant progress in taking forward the complex process of establishing a new social security system for Scotland – a system underpinned by dignity, fairness and respect.
Once devolved, the new social security powers will account for around £2.8bn, or 15 per cent of the total benefit expenditure in Scotland, and they have an important role to play in tackling inequalities and creating a fairer Scotland.
So while Kirsty may never need it, she can be sure she and her peers will be able to access a system that provides help and support to those who do need it, when they need it, shaped by the views of those who have direct experience of accessing welfare.
Kirsty and her family will be able to look forward to the benefits of a massive expansion in early learning and childcare. We’ve already expanded free, high quality provision to 600 hours a year for all three and four-year-olds and extended it to two-year-olds from low-income households, saving families up to £2,500 per child per year in total. By the end of this parliament, we will double that provision to 1,140 hours.
And all of this is set against a progressive economic outlook for Kirsty’s future. The Scottish Government has secured, through the local government finance settlement, a package of measures that will enable local authorities to maintain, and increase, the pace of reform needed to improve the vital services on which Kirsty and her family will depend.
We are also building a strong economy, with more people in work than before the recession. This will ensure Kirsty and her family have the best chances in life.
Our target to reduce the proportion of children exposed to the damaging effects of second-hand smoke in the home from 12 per cent to six per cent has been met five years early. We have also introduced a ban on smoking in cars where children are present. This is all part of our effort to create Scotland’s first tobacco-free generation by 2034, the year of Kirsty’s 18th birthday.
Our new ten-year mental health strategy has a strong focus on improving delivery of child and adolescent mental health services, including reviewing counselling and guidance services in schools. Should she ever need it, Kirsty will have improved support for preventative adolescent mental health services to tackle issues even earlier.
And our focus on ensuring Scotland’s young people eat better and feel better means children like Kirsty will grow up with a better understanding of how nutrition and good food will benefit their health and wellbeing. This year alone, this government has provided £250,000 to improve Scotland’s food culture, including education initiatives, farm visits, and community cookery classes and demonstrations to help ensure kids like Kirsty can access fresh, healthy, local food.
Kirsty is also growing up in a Scotland which has become a safer place, with crime levels continuing to fall. Kirsty and her family are less likely to be a victim of violence or property crime, or be injured or die as a result of a fire, than ever before.
Our commitment to celebrating Scotland’s beautiful countryside is also reaping benefits. We are protecting Scotland’s green spaces, providing support and funding so that Kirsty and her family can enjoy the benefits of being outdoors. We’re also tackling climate change head on – reducing emissions and protecting the environment for Kirsty’s generation and her future children.
In addition, almost 60 per cent of Scotland’s electricity output now comes from renewable sources, ensuring a cleaner, greener energy supply for Kirsty and her family.
And Kirsty and her family can enjoy a Scotland filled with rich culture and history. This government has maintained funding for the National Museum of Scotland, National Library of Scotland and National Galleries, so Kirsty and her family can continue to visit and enjoy their core collections for free.
Through our increased support for the Edinburgh Festivals and Scotland’s Winter Festivals, and the core funding we allocate to Historic Environment Scotland, we are also providing hundreds of opportunities for Kirsty and her family to take part in a diverse range of cultural and historic visits, events and activities.
Scotland’s political landscape is a constantly shifting one, but there is no doubt that this government has made great strides to improving the lives of young people like Kirsty.
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