Inequality affects every aspect of life and we need to keep talking about it

Written by Kate Shannon on 22 November 2016 in Comment

After returning from a year's maternity leave, Kirsty, the Holyrood baby, is never far from Kate Shannon's thoughts

Kirsty, the Holyrood baby - Picture credit: istock

After what feels like the quickest year on record, I am back at Holyrood after having my baby. I’m very happy to be working again and while my little girl is fairly outraged by the idea of me going away all day, we’re getting used to this new normal.

Obviously the world has continued to spin and much has happened in the past 12 months. However, I’d like to take a moment to highlight what I think is one of our most interesting and insightful pieces of work – the Holyrood baby.

Having been off on maternity leave, I’ve been hyper aware that every single thing I have done, even before she was born, has had some kind of impact on my baby’s wellbeing. As a first time mum, and not a particularly calm person anyway, this has inevitably caused me all kinds of worry.


Her chances, your choices- Introducing Kirsty, the Holyrood baby

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While I was pregnant I stressed about loads of things: would all those chicken nuggets and cheese sandwiches I ate to stave off morning sickness negatively impact on her brain development? Should I have been playing classical music to her in utero, rather than just moaning – constantly – about feeling fat and uncomfortable? And then we come to the birth itself, had I damaged her by taking pain relief drugs? Did she get the full hour of skin-to-skin contact post-birth?

Once the baby was born and the sleep deprivation kicked in, the worry mushroomed almost out of control – was she feeding enough? Or too much? Should you be feeding on demand? Is she putting on enough weight? Or too much weight? Are you cuddling them too much (I never worried about this but I know people who did)? And what happens if breastfeeding doesn’t work and you have to formula feed? It just goes on and on.

However, reading about little Kirsty, who is just six months younger than my baby, makes me realise how lucky we are. We are not living in poverty, we don’t have to worry about those levels of income insecurity and my child will (hopefully) never have to face many of the challenges that Kirsty will. It puts everything into perspective.

The Scottish Government launched a consultation into the Child Poverty Bill in August and hopes the Bill, which will be introduced next year, will form part of its overall approach to tackling poverty and inequality in Scotland. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Inequality affects every aspect of life and that is why I think it’s so important that everyone, from politicians and policy makers to the person on the street, keep talking about it. Kirsty might be an abstract creation but real babies are being born all the time facing almost insurmountable challenges. There is no silver bullet but one thing is clear, we can’t let this cycle continue.

Keep up to date with Kirsty’s development here.  



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