Calls for disabled people on party boards to increase representation in Scots politics

Stuart Rodger

MSP backs campaigners proposals in a parliamentary motion

DISABILITY rights’ campaigners have called for disability officers on party boards, sponsored internships, and equalities training as part of a wider strategy to make politics more accessible to disabled people.

The calls have been made by the One in Five campaign in their discussion paper, ‘Scotland 2021: Our Plan To Turn One in Five Into a Reality’.

Some of the other proposals outlined include ensuring all venues are accessible, the live-streaming of events which cannot be held in accessible venues, and that all materials are published in accessible formats. They also suggest political parties appoint a mental health representative and that Holyrood appoint a welfare officer to advise disabled members.

Disability rights activists claim that a lack of representation for disabled people in politics is an acute problem – with the number of MSPs self-identifying as disabled declining after the most recent Scottish election.

The calls have been backed in a parliamentary motion lodged by Jeremy Balfour, Tory MSP for the Lothian region, who is the only member of the Scottish Parliament who self-identifies as disabled.

The motion reads: “That the Parliament recognises the One in Five campaign’s discussion paper, Scotland 2021; believes that only one self-identifying disabled MSP was elected to the Parliament in 2016 understands that disabled people face additional barriers when seeking elected office.”

“We are delighted that he will raise this important motion in parliament.” Jamie Szymkowiak

It continues: “[It] welcomes the access to elected office fund Scotland, which supports disability-related expenses or support and will enable disabled people to participate fully as candidates or prospective candidates in the 2017 Scottish local authority elections, and encourages all elected representatives to undertake disability equality training.”

The motion has been backed by MSPs from all of Scotland’s main political parties, including Iain Gray from Scottish Labour, Stuart McMillan from the SNP, and Andy Wightman from the Scottish Greens. The motion itself is not legally binding, but could go to debate at the discretion of the presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament.

Balfour said: “Disability comes in many different forms and any training that can help MSPs better engage with their constituents is to be welcomed. That’s why I have raised a parliamentary motion recognising the One in Five campaign’s discussion paper and welcome the access to elected office fund. I also hope to encourage my parliamentary colleagues to undertake disability equality training when we return from recess.”

“Disability comes in many different forms and any training that can help MSPs better engage with their constituents is to be welcomed.” Jeremy Balfour

Founder of the One in Five campaign, Jamie Szymkowiak, said: “We had an extremely productive meeting with Jeremy Balfour and we are delighted that he will raise this important motion in parliament.”

“We encourage constituents to ask their MSPs to support this motion and undertake the equality training.”

He added that the paper was a stepping stone to a wider debate on how access could be improved: “The purpose of the paper is to start a discussion on non-financial barriers entering politics. The access to elected office fund removes financial barriers but there are still non-financial barriers as well.”

Picture courtesy of: One in Five

Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is. Pledge your support today.