Helen Martin: The Mummy and Daddy State is out of control

DO Scots make pathetically incapable parents? That sounds like an offensive question and one which, if it had been asked by a foreign government, would have had the SNP up in arms.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launches the Baby Box scheme with the help of little Leo Donegan and Nina Fredricks. Picture: John Devlin
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launches the Baby Box scheme with the help of little Leo Donegan and Nina Fredricks. Picture: John Devlin

For example, £120 million is being invested in closing the attainment gap. Every child from P1 to S3 who is eligible for free school meals will have an extra £1200 spent on them by their school. Sounds good if that money was to go on additional educational support where required, delivered by professionals.

But one key project is the Pizza Reading Club. Families turn up with their kids to play games, take part in arts and crafts and read books – all things that any decent parent should be doing at home anyway. Just because a child is entitled to free school dinners doesn’t mean their parents are not already doing all that.

To attend, families are “bribed” with biscuits and juice at the start of the session, and pizza to close. How insulting, and pizza? Well that’s a mistake.

Fireworks light up the sky during the Hogmanay celebrations. Picture: PA

The government is also spending £270,000 in a publicity campaign to get children to eat veg. Apparently over a quarter of parents say they’ve given up on that challenge, so the Eat Better Feel Better project aims to encourage children and advise parents on shopping and cooking.

I cannot imagine anything less challenging than getting a young child (providing they have no related problems) to eat a healthy diet. And if there is a parent in Scotland who isn’t already familiar with the five-a-day minimum, the magical concealing properties of a blender, Googling recipes with child appeal, or the simple tactic of “eat that first or you won’t get your favourite whatever next”, they must have had their fingers in their ears for decades.

Giving in to children at the expense of their dietary health is not what any rational person would describe as good parenting. Children only “refuse” to eat vegetables if they know their parents will let them get away with it. That’s the problem. Yet another national, blanket PR exercise about veg won’t help them.

And now we have the £6 million-a-year Baby Box scheme which provides every new-born child in Scotland with a box containing 40 items including clothing, bedding, toys, a play mat, a changing mat, a digital thermometer, a fleece jacket, several babygrows, a hooded bath towel, a reusable nappy and liners, a baby book, an organic sponge, cot sheets, a mattress and a blanket. The baby can sleep in the box.

Fireworks light up the sky during the Hogmanay celebrations. Picture: PA

It’s a Finnish idea and for those struggling to afford the bare necessities, it’s worthwhile and generous. But for many parents choosing cots, cribs, clothes and getting the nursery ready for their own child is their job – not the government’s – and part of the joy. Those who already have children don’t need the box at all. We don’t all want to be dependent on the state.

These expensive and unnecessary, “initiatives” seem like a continuation of the controversial “named person” scheme. And the message they send to the rest of the world is that our people can’t parent without state interference and control.

A proud, fair and free nation gives specific support – to those who need it.

A happy New Year at last!

HOORAH! I’m almost tempted to wave a sparkler. Christmas and Hogmanay in Edinburgh is to be scaled down because of cutbacks. We’re skint and sanity has prevailed.

With the capacity of the street party reduced, perhaps demand could see the ticket price rise. After all, people pay more for big band gigs or sports events. Bring on a relatively modest tourist tax.

Get rid of the explosions and go for silent fireworks or laser extravaganzas. Say goodbye to human congestion that turns the city into a giant sardine can, and use more ratepayers’ money for ratepayers rather than an annual ego trip. Let event producers pay for performance rights and areas.

Even some tourists complained that the city was too busy last year and they were right. Sydney, New York and London are large enough to cope. Edinburgh simply got too big for its boots.

Football is too quick to forget

SO Declan Gallagher, the Livingston footballer who was sentenced to three years for, along with a co-accused, having been found guilty of assault has been re-signed by the club immediately after being released from prison.

Well, that’s what happens in football. He’s not the only player to be welcomed back following criminal activity or violence, so neither he nor Livingston FC have crossed the line.

But it’s interesting to consider which other employees from cleaners in a care home to teachers, police officers, or kids’ football coaches, would be legally re-employed under those circumstances, having left their victim with a brain haemorrhage and a fractured skull.

He said he was looking forward to getting back to the changing rooms and “having a laugh with the boys”. Yes, there will be people who applaud that sporting enthusiasm, cheer him back on the pitch and still see him as a role model.

Hard to swallow

AN Indian restaurant in Dundee gives all-you-can-eat-buffet diners a £2 “waste” fine for leaving too much on their plate. I don’t know what’s worse . . . wasting food, or encouraging folk to eat too much.