'I AM absolutely delighted that, after a successful pilot period, the Scottish Government’s Baby Box programme is being rolled out across the country and I would strongly encourage all expectant mothers in my Cowdenbeath constituency, whose babies are due on or after August 15 to register for a Baby Box at their next midwife appointment.

The Baby Boxes hold a cornucopia of useful items such as books, clothes, blankets, a bath towel, a changing mat, a bib and a thermometer, while also providing a safe space for babies to sleep near their parents, to promote bonding and early attachment, and send a signal that every child, regardless their background, matters.

These boxes signal the SNP Government’s commitment to ensuring that every child in Scotland, regardless of their circumstances, should get the best start in life but the Baby Box - which the Scottish Government is gifting to every child in Scotland to help tackle deprivation, improve health and support parents – is just one part of our determination to ensure that every child has an equal start in life.

The SNP Government has been using new hard-won powers to create new Maternity and Early Years’ Allowances, the Best Start Grant, which provides expectant mothers on low incomes with £600 for their first child, £300 for second and subsequent children and a further £250 grant when their child starts nursery, and £250 again when they start school.

And there is further support being provided for our young people right now, too. In 2017-18, Fife Council is receiving very nearly £10million from the £120m Pupil Equity Fund – money which is to be spent at the discretion of teachers and school leaders to close the attainment gap, benefitting 8,156 eligible pupils in 156 schools in total.

These changes should have a significant effect on the budgets of families in real need of a bit of help. It has been calculated that the increase in free childcare to 600 hours, for example, saves families up to £2,500 per child per year in total with the expansion to 1,140 hours saving families over £4,500 per child per year. Fife Council received £24.4million additional funding for this from the Scottish Government between 2014-15 and 2016-17.

All of this together means that the SNP Government are providing targeted support at a significantly higher level than elsewhere in the UK, to help low income families.

And remember - for mothers in my constituency looking forward to welcoming a new born into the world on or after 15th August this summer - all you need to do to be gifted a Baby Box is apply through your midwife in advance, supplying your preferred delivery address'.