TAM Baillie had a rocky start to his tenure as Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner.

A row about a set of caricatures of himself, commissioned at a cost of £4,000, was swiftly followed by internal HR problems after he was appointed in May 2009.

By the time these had been resolved, and a deluge of freedom of information queries from the media and politicians dealt with, his initial two year spell in the post was almost up.

Despite this, Mr Baillie remains defiant about the spending on the “Meet Tam” publicity, which made him the target of early criticism.

He said: “I stand by that. My experience told me children wanted to identify with a commissioner and wouldn’t identify with an anonymous office. I would do it again, though I was attacked for having the temerity to spend a modest amount on a cartoon.”

Another innovation was a series of consultations with Scotland’s young people, under the heading A Right Blether and A Right Wee Blether. These have informed campaigning, allowing him to represent the views of children, he says. A final element A Right Baby Blether will be published before he leaves office next month.

This initiative asked parents to look at Scotland from the eyes of their baby to help illuminate areas for improvement.

But the failure to see a full ban on smacking by the time he leaves office is one of his greatest disappointments, he says. Another is the lack of progress on child poverty.

“As long as we live in an unequal society we will continue to produce children who have very different experiences in the early years,” he explains. “Poverty has a corrosive impact on many aspects of children’s lives – from school attainment to very simply how long they will live.” Undoing the damage caused to children by poverty costs the public purse huge amounts, he says.

His time as Children’s Commissioner has been characterised not by failure, however, but by significant progress, he argues. Prominent victories include the change of policy by Police Scotland over stop and search, after it was found to be being used disproportionately and unjustifiably to target young people. “There was a period of time when it was overused by the police in terms of their interactions with young people. We are now back to it being used more proportionately and Police Scotland should be given credit for that,” he says.

The other major step forward is the Scottish Government’s commitment to raise the age of criminal responsibility, he adds. “They have done it by degrees, first raising the age of prosecution and now we will have legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12. It only brings us up to the minimum expected under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but it is a real step in the right direction.”

Beyond this, there have been significant advances in eduction in terms of the prominence of children’s rights in schools and the willingness of teachers to talk about them, he says, although he adds that there is “a long way to go on this”.

Some object to this foregrounding of children’s rights, saying young people can be too ready to fall back on claims about their “rights” when confronted with decisions they don’t like. “I don’t see evidence of that. All the evidence I see is that it leads to a school culture more attuned to children’s rights.”

In fact the evidence is the opposite, he argues – schools which perform well tend to have not just good teaching and leadership but a strong ethos, where pupils are respected and the quality of relationships is good. “Schools which engage with this don’t report difficulty with children exerting their rights.”

The other area in which Mr Baillie cites significant progress during his time in post is in the early years. This has been influenced by many other interests than just the office of the Children’s Commissioner, but he has been among those involved in the planning which saw “stretch aims” set for 2016 and subsequent years, setting out expectations for progress in a host of areas of child development. Now, though, he fears slippage. The Government has quietly changed all these targets to 2020, he argues. “I fear that is significant. These goals were the subject of lots of discussion and consultation and it felt as if something very powerful was going on. Now it feels as if the foot has been taken off the pedal. John Swinney would say absolutely not, and I hope that is the case,” he says.

The other prominent area of child welfare policy has been the Scottish Government’s Named Person policy, which Mr Baillie has supported. “I still do. It is a light touch early warning system. It won’t solve every problem. But it is a way of parents knowing where to go if they need certain assistance,” he says.

“Most importantly it aligns our systems to be better attuned to the needs of children. Where the Government has fallen down is in the requirement to share information, which the courts have declared unlawful. They need to make it consistent with data protection. The problem is it has become very politicised.”

On that topic, his latter time in the role featured a well-publicised spat with Ruth Davidson after she drew attention to the fact that murdered toddler Liam Fee had been allocated a Named Person under a trial scheme in Fife. “I said it was unforgivable,”he says.

As he hands over to Bruce Adamson, who worked under his predecessor Kathleen Marshall, Mr Baillie has still has not buried the hatchet with the Conservative leader. He says: “I still haven’t really resolved that. But I do think it is unforgivable, and wrong to politicise child deaths. It is impossible to single out any one policy as being culpable for the death of a child.”