QUESTIONS have been raised about the SNP pledge to give every baby a box of goods – with one expert warning it could turn out to be “an expensive, unhelpful stunt”.

Professor Graham Watt, an expert in community healthcare and deprivation at Glasgow University, said "many, perhaps most" parents who receive the box of free toys, clothes and bedding would not need it and its value would depend on the message it conveyed.

Others have queried whether the government should be giving every child the gift - estimated to cost around £6m a year - when some families have desperate needs.

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It has also been warned that the boxes should not become an opportunity for companies to market their baby brands to new parents. Some health boards have already stopped Bounty packs - which contain free samples and leaflets, being delivered to mothers on maternity wards.

The SNP announced they would give every newborn a baby box, adopting the practice from Finland, when they unveiled their election manifesto this week. The box the goods come in contains a mattress and can be used as a crib.

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Professor Watt said of the policy: "If it is understood as 'free gifts' from the State, encouraging a something for nothing, acquisitive culture, it's an expensive, unhelpful stunt. If it conveys the message that everyone is part of the same system, sharing doubts and uncertainties, hoping to avoid calamities in infancy and childhood, but confident they, and more likely - others, will get help if they need it, that's a restorative message, underpinning the NHS as a shared resource, which we hope not to need and are prepared to pay for, so that others less fortunate, more likely than ourselves, can get the help they need."

The idea has been warmly received by Gillian Smith, director of the Royal College of Midwives in Scotland, although she felt wealthier families might consider not accepting the box of freebies - noting affluent pensioners can choose to donate their winter fuel payments to charity.

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She said: "I know it is going to cost a bit of money but I have encountered people who have not got anything to put their baby in when they get home so this would be absolutely wonderful."

Dr Linda de Caestecker, who is director of public health for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde but currently on secondment to the International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (FIGO), said: "It is a lovely idea - every mother or family gets the gifts, its well presented, the clothes are nice. My reservation is that there are a lot of families in Scotland with very extreme needs and is giving something to everyone really going to help everyone? We have families going to foodbanks who are very vulnerable...

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"It is a small thing to do for families who are very chaotic and very vulnerable and they need on going intensive support and we do not have enough of that."

The SNP manifesto also promised to train 500 more health visitors, to support parents and young children with a new maternity and early years grant and to provide 30 hours of childcare for vulnerable two year olds.

Dr de Caestecker said: "The 500 more health visitors are definitely more important for the future of children in Scotland. I think there is a strong case for Scotland to provide more support for the most vulnerable families. But it (the baby box) is a nice thing."

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She added that it had to be done without sponsorship or advertising certain brands. She said: "However they do it they have managed it in Finland. They do not associate with brands and sponsorship. You would have to be very careful about that."