By Jason Michael

Of all the things that are wrong with the world, baby boxes and free sanitary provision aren’t two of them. Yet the BBC wants us to ignore the costs of Brexit and nuclear bombs and think of these as a waste of money.

Many – many – moons ago, while still a nipper back in Bellfield Primary School, my teacher Mrs Miller asked our class to draw the perfect world. What we all drew exactly I can no longer remember. It has been a while. But, having seen other teachers work this magic with other children, no doubt we drew our families holding hands on sunny days, with rainbows and unicorns and that sort of thing. Perhaps there is an unintended cruelty in this lesson for youngsters. Teachers are essentially asking their pupils to imagine a utopia which’s absence will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

As adults living in the real world – in the actualised dystopia our political leaders have made for us – we find ourselves longing for that ephemeral perfection. Sure, isn’t that exactly why we are prepared to move heaven and earth just to get a few days in the sun once in a while? With or without Theresa May and Donald Trump and their ilk wreaking havoc upon the face of the earth, life isn’t perfect. There will always be speed bumps. That’s why genuine goodness touches us.

In Scotland we are blessed to see some of that genuine goodness being done by a Scottish government eager to make a difference in a nation that has suffered long at the hands of a self-serving and negligent London government. Baby boxes and free sanitary provision for women living in poverty are two of its genuinely good initiatives. Beginning very soon, after a successful pilot project, every newborn child in Scotland will be given a rigid, safety assured box; filled with many of the essentials needed by a baby in its first few months, that doubles as a cot – giving our newest Scots the best possible start in life. Having seen more than a few babies sleeping in drawers growing up, I can’t even write about this scheme without getting emotional.

There was a time in my life, while out of work and struggling to pay a private landlord rent, when all I could afford to eat was pasta or rice and brown sauce. I was right on the edge of falling into homelessness. Had I been a woman I would have been forced to find alternatives to tampons or sanitary towels during my period, and I know a number of woman who have been in precisely this position. There is no denying that all over Scotland, where record numbers are dependent on foodbanks, that countless women and girls are faced with this indignity. Scotland’s government is the first government in the world to have taken steps to end this.

When I say that I am proud of our “SNP government” – as the BBC is wont to call it when it puts Scotland, as it always does, in a dim light – I mean it. I am dead proud of the government in Edinburgh Scotland has elected to represent it.

Had these baby boxes been sent out to the “Black Babies” – remember that colonialist-racist and patronising British aid programme? – the UK government and media would be gushing. Had some fancy London-based charity, headed up by some character of dubious character with an OBE, spearheaded free sanitary provision for women in India or Africa, we would never hear the end of it. But that these things are being done in Scotland, by the Scottish government, for the people of Scotland, the British press and the Scottish unionist commentariat are working overtime to paint these boxes as potentially life-threatening, and all of it as a frivolous waste of money.

Absolutely, when the government gives stuff out for free it costs money – it costs the taxpayer money. But since we are going to be paying tax anyway, we should perhaps take some time to look at the kinds of things the UK government wants to use our money for – compared to what the Scottish government is doing. Brexit – something Scotland resoundingly rejected – will be costing the Scottish taxpayer £5,333 a year, HS2 – the high speed rail link that won’t even come to Scotland – will take £2,201 a year from the philanthropic Scots taxpayer, refitting Westminster – the English parliament – will cost us £276 annually, and Trident – the nuclear deterrent the Scottish parliament has objected to – will lighten Scottish pockets by £269 every year. That’s a staggering £8,079 yearly cost to the Scottish taxpayer for the things we don’t want.

How much will it cost to give a baby a safe place to sleep and everything it needs for its first few months? It will all cost £4 a year from every taxpayer in Scotland. For a measly £4 a year – that’s about 1p a day – we can reduce the burden on families, lower the infant mortality rate, and do something that is actually genuinely good. Compare that to the imposition of a Brexit we didn’t want, a fast train we won’t get, and nuclear weapons dumped on the Clyde. I’m no economist, but I can’t see tampons and sanitary towels for women and girls living in Westminster imposed poverty as costing even that much.

Take me back then to the fish table in Mrs Miller’s class and let me draw that perfect world again. I have a much better idea than I probably had at the time. It would be a world of baby boxes and free tampons, safe, adequate housing, sustainable employment and a basic income for everyone. It would be far from a utopia. No doubt the BBC would still be covering up the British establishment’s child sex abuse scandals, but at least my mammy would be damn proud to stick it on the fridge.


BBC 3: People are only “amazing” when they are doing good and not Scottish

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One thought on “Drawing a Perfect World

  1. I loved what you said. I am getting so pissed off at the verbal abuse being flung at the SNP. I know it comes from an underbelly of incompetence and resentment on the opposition’s part but it is wearing and, to the wrong ears, acts as anti-Indy propaganda. The SNP needs to do more to shout about it’s achievements!!!


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