Michael McEwan: The Access to Elected Office fund can be a game-changer for disabled people in politics

Ben Wray

CommonSpace columnist and chairperson of his local disability group, Michael McEwan highlights the work of Inclusion Scotland in developing an Access to Elected office fund and charter to increase the representation of disabled people in politics

INCLUSION SCOTLAND are working on a new fund called Access to Elected Office, addressing the barriers which prevent disabled people from becoming fully involved in politics.

This is a groundbreaking development for Inclusion Scotland, as they are working with disabled activists like myself across the political spectrum to develop the Access to Politics charter.

The launch of Access to Elected Office was in June of this year at the Scottish Parliament, attended by disabled people and MSP, several of whom on the day signed up to the charter, which was supported by leaders of all five Scottish parties.

In working to deliver the fund, during last year’s local council elections, the organisation held an event in February, where over fifty disabled activists began the process of creating a list of solutions to problems faced by disabled people getting into politics.


During the next Scottish Parliament elections the work of the fund should be seen in practice, with a view to get more people with a disability into politics in Scotland and to give people with a disability a voice at parliament level. 

In the charter political parties affirm to: 

– outline disabled people’s participation in activities;

– support and resource disabled member’s party group;

– provision of disability equality training to elected officers, staff and party members;

– language used recognises disability as a societal issue with societal solutions;

– investigate alternative means of participation such as remote presence and internal digital voting;

– actively support and encourage disabled people to stand for elected office.

39 disabled people who became candidates were supported by the fund and 15 became councillors. This is real progress to see people with a disability represented in government and to give us a true voice.

The Scottish Parliament currently only has one openly disabled member, so at the next elections in 2021 we should expect big process to be made, considering one in five working-age Scots have a disability.

Inclusion Scotland receives funding to be actively involved in various national strategic committees on the impact of welfare reform, and it also leads the way in researching disability harassment.

Inclusion Scotland is a ‘Disabled People’s Organisation’ (DPO) – led by disabled people. Their mission is to ensure that policy affecting the everyday lives of disabled people in Scotland is informed by, and reflects their views, so that the full inclusion of disabled people in to all aspects of Scottish society can be achieved.

Inclusion Scotland are also looking for a mixture of people from across Scotland who use adult social care support in different ways. Panel members will play a part in designing better adult social care support in Scotland and will gain more knowledge about how decision makers work. Relevant training will also be offered.

This group will meet four times a year and will directly communicate with the Ministers for Health and Sport. The first meeting will be the Launch Event for the Policy Panel on the morning of Wednesday the 31st October in Stirling Court Hotel.

Picture courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture