AN Irish minister has praised Scotland's "amazing" baby box scheme which has just been rolled out in Ireland.

Neale Richmond helped spearhead the campaign for the initiative in Ireland after meeting with Scotland’s Children’s Minister, Maree Todd, in Edinburgh and after attending the SNP’s conference in October 2018.

He tweeted: "The #BabyBox had been around for decades in Finland & elsewhere but the Scottish model championed by Children’s Minister @MareeToddMSP is what piqued my interest."

When asked if he first heard about the idea from Finland, Richmond told RTE One Live: "It was actually from Scotland. Scotland brought it in about five years. We have a parliamentary voting team and I'm the captain of the Irish team. The captain of the Scottish team is their children's minister, Maree Todd, and she introduced this in Scotland four years ago. We were over in Edinburgh for the Fringe a couple of years ago, went up to her office and saw the box.

"I thought it was amazing. All these things that we never thought you need, you know, ear thermometer, bath thermometer, blankets. And the baby can sleep in the box itself."

Richmond was asked if it is safe to sleep in the box. He responded: "Absolutely safe. When it was brought in in Finland in the 1930s it was shown to actually reduce cot death."

The baby box was introduced in Scotland by Nicola Sturgeon’s Government in August 2017 as a means to convey the equality of everyone and also as a way of tackling deprivation, improving health and supporting parents.

Since the 1930s Finnish parents have been given a cardboard box containing essentials for babies, such as sleep-suits and nappies, as well as advice leaflets for parents.

Inspired by the Finnish scheme, the Scottish baby box contains essential items such as nappies, wipes, a bath towel, bibs, baby clothes, a soft toy and books. Lined with a mattress and fitted sheet, it can also be used as somewhere for the baby to sleep in his or her early weeks.

The box also contains a specially commissioned poem by Jackie Kay called Welcome Wee One, who is Scotland’s national poet laureate – also known as The Scots Makar (Makar being a 15th-century Scottish term for a poet or bard). The poem is an ode to the joys of bringing a new baby into the world.

Three baby box pilot schemes have been implemented already in Ireland and these will be increased steadily with the aim to have 60,000 boxes distributed to parents every year.

To date more than 115,000 boxes have been delivered to parents in Scotland – with uptake now at 96%.