Inclusion Scotland highlight the lack of disabled MSPs

Former Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon, who left parliament this year.

Former Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon, who left parliament this year.

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Following the May 5 election disabled people are even more under-represented in the Scottish Parliament than in the previous session.

This is according to leading disabled people’s organisation Inclusion Scotland, who pointed out that only one MSP (Jeremy Balfour, Conservative) openly identifying as a disabled person, was elected,

A year ago all five parties signed up to the “One in Five Charter” to undertake to improve accessibility within their parties, and actively encourage and support disabled people to become candidates. So far, this doesn’t appear to be showing results, as a fully representative Scottish Parliament would contain around 23 disabled MSPs.

But now help will be available to any disabled candidates wishing to stand in the 2017 Local Authority elections, through the new Democratic Participation Fund, to be run by Inclusion Scotland.

Funded by the Scottish Government, the scheme will offer financial assistance to address access barriers such as higher transport costs, the use of communication support workers, personal assistants and other reasonable adjustments which will give disabled candidates a more level playing field to compete with non-disabled opponents.

Dr Sally Witcher, Chief Executive Officer, Inclusion Scotland said: “Disabled people have a great deal to contribute to politics and public life.

“Our lived experience of exclusion means that we really understand what needs to be done to promote inclusion.“

Siobhan McMahon, former Labour MSP and one of the three disabled people to leave parliament this year has pointed to a need for “action, not just warm words” from parties, and claims: “no party has taken any reasonable or meaningful action to help disabled people enter politics or seek election.”

Sarah Anderson, a Green activist who plans to stand for Council herself next year, and is a spokesperson for grass-roots campaign group “One in Five”, said: “The recent Scottish Parliament elections show there is room for improvement when it comes to the representation of disabled people in political life.”