ONE of the great pleasures of a week celebrating our NHS has been looking back at the rich history and development of our most cherished of national institutions over 70 years.

In 1948 we really changed the course of how we prioritised the health of a nation. It became intrinsic, not peripheral, to what a government does for its people.

William Beveridge’s report published in the midst of the bleakest years of the Second World War set the tone and tenor of what the welfare state was to become – a commitment to social security “from the cradle to the grave”, to make healthcare available to all based on need and not their ability to pay.

It was a commitment to universalism, equality and creating opportunities for everyone from which we should never retreat.

For my own part, the 20 years I spent working as a pharmacist for NHS Highland were an absolute pleasure and privilege.

As is the case for all families, the NHS has been there for me and mine when we have needed it. It’s an amazing and precious thing and we should never take it for granted.

But our NHS cannot stand in splendid isolation.

All parts of government should pull in the same direction if we are to truly live up to the aspirations of the post-war years.

I have responsibility for Children and Young people in the Scottish Government. Or, if we take Beveridge’s maxim, matters more towards the “cradle” end of the spectrum.

We believe that every single child in Scotland – no matter their background – should have the very best start in life and the same opportunities to achieve their potential.

What impacts upon that potential, those experiences that can knock kids back the most, can stem from their very earliest years.

If young people have adverse or traumatic experiences as they grow up – from domestic violence, parental imprisonment, neglect, abuse or a home blighted by drugs and alcohol – the effect can last a lifetime.

Think about this: 27,000 kids in Scotland have a parent in prison. That’s almost the population of Motherwell. These can be serious, intergenerational issues that stand in the way of potential, a child’s development, their capacity to go on to college or university, their capacity to achieve their best in life.

So our three priorities lie in preventing these adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) occurring in the first place, wherever possible, mitigating any negative impacts as soon as possible and increasing the understanding of the rights of children and the impact of ACEs throughout Scottish society and as we shape policy in other fields.

That’s why we’re making fundamental and necessary reforms.

But social security cannot mean healthcare system or welfare benefits or other pockets of policy in isolation. It should mean a universal and comprehensive package across the range of government policy choices which make a difference to people’s lives.

I’m proud that before a child even comes into the world in Scotland, its parents receive a baby box – a welcome gift of essential items such as clothes, (no nappies) and books to help ensure they get the best start in life. All babies equal at birth and, from there, equal in their opportunities through life.

We have unashamedly made closing the attainment gap in Scottish education our priority in government. And the earlier we start the better. We’re doubling free childcare provision to almost 30 hours a week by 2020.

We’re increasing the number of teachers and graduates in nurseries. By 2018 every nursery in our most deprived areas will have an additional qualified teacher or childcare graduate, helping children reach their full potential whatever their background. This will mean 435 more graduates in nurseries in Scotland’s most deprived communities by 2018.

Every child should be able to enjoy a safe, fulfilling, secure and loving childhood. Yet for far too many young people in care, and through absolutely no fault of their own, that’s not the case. That’s why we’ve taken on a root-and-branch review of the care system in Scotland. We’re also giving care experienced young people full university bursaries, more support into university, training or a job and an exemption from paying from paying council tax.

And these are just a few examples.

Social security, universalism, opportunity and ensuring future generations of kids in Scotland get the best chances from cradle to grave cannot be a narrow pursuit.

It’s what governing well is all about across all levels – not just

in our health service, not just in

our education system, not just in early years and not just in how we treat our most vulnerable, but across the board.