Nicola Sturgeon would have been concerned if I didn't take paternity leave to be with new baby Flora – Angus Robertson

There’s only one thing that can match the birth of your first child and that is the arrival of your second.

Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 4:55 am
Angus Robertson is taking two weeks of paternity leave to be with his newborn daughter Flora (Picture courtesy of Angus Robertson)

My daughter Flora made a grand appearance at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh last Friday nearly two years after her sister Saoirse. Both mother and baby are doing great and huge thanks go to Dr Bridget Smyth, her obstetrics colleagues and everyone at the maternity unit. From the midwives and consultants to the ward nursing and cleaning staff, everyone has been amazing.

Spending some days as a regular visitor reminded me how impressive the Royal Infimary’s facilities are. It’s a huge hospital offering cutting-edge medical care.

Things have come a long way since the Royal Infirmary opened as Scotland’s first voluntary hospital in 1729. Located in a ‘little house’ at the head of Robertson’s Close on the Royal Mile, it had only four beds. Twelve years later, it moved to Infirmary Street where it had 228 beds, before its purpose-built successor site opened at Lauriston Place in 1879.

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What was described as "probably the best planned hospital" in the whole of Britain was the mainstay of healthcare in Edinburgh. When it was decided in the 1990s to construct a modern single hospital Little France was chosen as the site to incorporate the old Royal Infirmary, Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion, the Princess Margaret Rose Orthopaedic Hospital and the City Hospital.

Notwithstanding initial controversy about its funding and construction, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh is a hugely impressive medical facility for people across Lothian, with more than 900 beds and 100,000 annual emergency patient attendances.

Part of the wider 160-acre BioQuarter site incorporates the prestigious teaching hospital, a world-renowned school of medicine, a range of cutting-edge life sciences companies and 8,000 dedicated staff. Edinburgh BioQuarter describes itself as “a leading global destination for healthcare delivery, groundbreaking medical research and life sciences innovation with ambitions to create Scotland’s £1 billion Health Innovation District”.

Having now returned home with our new baby, I am now on paternity leave. In the UK, that is sadly only a couple of weeks, while in our Nordic neighbours, substantial paid parental leave makes up the majority of leave available to parents.

By way of example: a significant part of the leave can be allocated specifically for dads in the shape of a ‘daddy quota’, which in Sweden for example is 90 days. If the father does not take leave, the family loses the leave period reserved for them. The point is to encourage fathers to take leave and play a hands-on, early parenting role.

While paternity leave is only two weeks here, for the moment I will enjoy the opportunity to get to know baby Flora, help my wife Jennifer and manage the juggling act with our first daughter Saoirse.

I am hugely grateful for the kind messages of congratulation and the understanding of colleagues who will pick up my busy work schedule while I’m away. When I was recently appointed as Cabinet Secretary by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, she said she would have been concerned if I did not plan to take paternity leave. Dads should be there for their newborn child and support their partner. I’m pleased to be taking paternity leave and support its widest take-up.

Angus Robertson is SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central

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