The Family is the Foundational Cornerstone

“Alongside the immediate pang at the loss of two gifted politicians, what both Campbell and Ross have done is heroic.”

This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph: 09/03/2020 [Online] Available:  [Accessed: 2020, Mar 10] Photo Credit: Holyrood Magazine

If I was asked to identify the most important thread that weaves the whole tapestry of society together or to pinpoint a kind of gravity that keeps the scales of society evenly balanced, it would be the family. However, there is a growing absence of the family in our political discourse and I fear, therefore, our policy-making process. This reality has come into sharp focus in the last 10 days following confirmation that high-profile MSPs Aileen Campbell and Gail Ross will not be standing for re-election in 2021.

Citing the challenge of representing a constituency equivalent to the landmass of Wales, Ross said she wanted to see her son grow up and Campbell indicated a desire to spend more time with her two young boys. Following Ross’ announcement, there has been much commentary about how to make the parliamentary process more family-friendly but I must admit that, alongside the immediate pang of tragedy at the loss of two gifted young politicians, I think what both MSPs have done is heroic.

I spoke with Dr Hannah Young, a psychotherapist from Dundee specialising in childhood attachment and loss, who said: “Children fundamentally seek connection but the impact on the adult caregiver when this connection is not possible is also significant. There are critical points when these experiences shape the developing brain more deeply than they ever will again.” Dr Young added: “Loving, secure and carefully attuned interactions in early life are fundamental to the capacity for joy.”

However, the current gravitational pull draws parents away from the family as the foundational cornerstone of the wellbeing society the Scottish Government applauds. In the recent Scottish budget, there was no reference to the family, parents, mothers or fathers but there was £645 million of investment to extend nationwide nursery provision to a full day and the doubling of childcare provision, all of which enables us to place the emotional wellbeing of our children in the hands of strangers.

The nuclear family is an explosive concept we should rediscover. My wife and I both work but have sought to craft professional lives that enable us to be accessible for school and nursery events and it is not without occupational or financial sacrifice. Last week, it was World Book Day and a stay-and-play session at nursery but it was worth it to see our little girl recite the lines she has been repeating around the house for the last fortnight.

Frederick Douglass once said: “It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men.” In a 2018 interview with Holyrood magazine, Gail Ross said: “Children that are loved grow up to be confident adults and have the ability to love their own children and the cycle goes on.” Some will say we have lost two great politicians but three young boys have regained their mums and society, as a whole, will benefit.