A project that could help boost the number of disabled politicians in Scotland has received funding from the Scottish government.
The £35,305 funding will be used to support disabled candidates standing in the 2016 elections to the Scottish parliament, and prospective candidates for the 2017 local government elections.
The short-term project will be run by Inclusion Scotland until March 2016 and will assess people’s access barriers and support needs, provide advice on appropriate adjustments, and offer support and mentoring.
Jamie Szymkowiak, founder of the One in Five campaign, which campaigns for greater participation of disabled people in Scottish politics and will be supporting Inclusion Scotland with the project, said the funding was “fantastic news”.
He said it would “help remove the non-financial barriers that face disabled people whilst allowing the Scottish government to gain an understanding of what could make financial support more effective in the future”.
He added: “The fact our campaign has gained support from all Scotland’s main political parties, various political groups and organisations shows there is a willingness to address the under-representation of disabled people and we hope this project will inspire disabled people across the political spectrum to seek selection in future elections.”
Sally Witcher, chief executive of Inclusion Scotland, said: “Disabled people have the human right to be politically active, just like non-disabled people.
“Yet, despite having a great deal to contribute to political life in Scotland and despite cross-party commitment to open up access, many barriers exist that prevent their equal participation.
“Furthermore, if Scottish government is to achieve its vision for a Fairer Scotland [its consultation on what a fairer Scotland should look like in 2030], one which values the participation of all its citizens, it is imperative we find out more about just what those barriers are and what can be done to remove them.”
Marco Biagi, minister for local government and community empowerment, said: “It is vital for society that all of our groups are represented in politics and elected offices at all levels.
“We know that disabled people often find it difficult to access elected offices due to the many barriers that exist.”
Deborah King, co-founder of Disability Politics UK, said: “The Scottish government’s support for aspiring disabled politicians is important.”
She contrasted the funding with the UK government’s indecision over its Access to Elected Office fund.
The fund – which offered grants to disabled people to pay for their additional impairment-related costs in standing for election as a councillor or MP – has been lying dormant since the general election while the government reviews its effectiveness.
King said: “The UK government needs to speed up its review of the Access to Elected Office fund.
“The review should not take too long; it is not the Chilcot Inquiry. Disabled people need to know there is financial support available as soon as possible.”
One in Five also welcomed another campaigning victory, after persuading the Scottish government to change the rules governing elections to the Scottish parliament.
The new rules mean that any disability-related costs incurred by a parliamentary candidate – such as to pay for taxis or sign language interpreters – will no longer count towards the legal limit on their election expenses.
Joe Fitzpatrick, the minister for parliamentary business, praised the work of One in Five in pushing for the change.
3 December 2015
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com