‘One in Five’ activists welcome year of change as government announces participation fund
SCOTLAND is slowly improving its policies on disability rights and access to politics, according to the campaign group calling for improved representation for disabled people.
Marking a year since the launch of the ‘One in Five’ project, activists gathered outside the Scottish Parliament to support further action to improve access and participation in the political process.
On top of receiving cross-party support, the Scottish Government announced a new PS200,000 “democratic participation fund for disabled people”, which aims to increase the number of representatives with a disability elected in the 2017 council elections.
“The democratic participation fund for disabled people contributes towards our broader ambition to encourage more people from under-represented groups to stand for elected office so our local councils become more reflective of the communities they serve.” Marco Biagi MSP
Pam Duncan-Glancy, an ambassador for the campaign said: “We are delighted at the success of the campaign so far. The challenges facing disabled people in politics are numerous and we have been quite overwhelmed by the engagement of all political parties in Scotland who have embraced the challenge with open arms, honesty and a thirst to do better.
“This week’s announcement that we will have a fund to support disabled people’s participation in politics is a great birthday present. Paying for the extra costs associated with being disabled – like covering the costs of PAs or accessible travel – is a huge barrier. This fund will make immeasurable difference to disabled people seeking to be involved in politics. We are proud to have been key to making it happen.”
Over 40 political organisations have signed the campaign’s charter in support of disabled participation. The group also highlights the inclusion of the charter in local government policy, exempting spend on access from election spending limits, a project with Inclusion Scotland to improve access to politics, and providing a public platform for disability activists.
Jamie Szymkowiak, founder and driving force behind the effort to make politics more accessible, welcomed the ‘democracy fund’: “The creation of the democratic participation fund for disabled people by the Scottish Government is magnificent news. The fund will certainly help smash the financial barriers disabled people face accessing politics – such as additional transport needs, sign language interpreters or extra travel costs if you have a carer.
“The One in Five campaign is delighted that this early announcement provides disabled people, across the political spectrum, plenty of time to consider standing for selection in the 2017 local government elections. The fund, together with the redefinition of candidates’ personal expenses and the Access to Politics Project, provides the best opportunity for Scotland to address the under representation of disabled people in politics.”
Research by Inclusion Scotland found that fewer than 5 per cent of MSPs have a disability, while the figure in the general population is 20 per cent.
Minister for local government and community empowerment Marco Biagi, who announced the new funding, added: “The democratic participation fund for disabled people contributes towards our broader ambition to encourage more people from under-represented groups to stand for elected office so our local councils become more reflective of the communities they serve.”
“I am delighted to announce this funding, which comes as a direct response to one of the key demands from disabled people’s campaign organisations, who all highlight that funding is a major barrier for disabled people to even consider accessing politics.”
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Picture courtesy of Sarah Beattie-Smith