Disabled equality paid "lip service" by political parties, says Scottish Labour’s Siobhan McMahon

Written by Jenni Davidson on 5 April 2016 in News

EXCLUSIVE: Siobhan McMahon​ says Labour is doing little to increase access to politics for people with disabilities

Political parties are only paying “lip service” to equalities, according to Scottish Labour’s Siobhan McMahon.

All parties have signed up the One in Five campaign, which aims to increase political participation among disabled people, but the former MSP and Labour list candidate for central Scotland, who herself has a disability, said more action is needed from Labour.

In an interview for the latest issue of Holyrood Magazine, she said: “I think the parties have to take, and this is all parties, they have to pay more than lip service, and I think that’s what they’re doing at the minute.


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“They’re signing up to the One in Five campaign, which is great, but I don’t think there is any group so far that have said how they are going to do that.

“So for instance, if I just talk about the Labour Party – you know, I think it’s right that I speak of my own one – we’re signing up to the One in Five campaign and yet I’ve just gone through a selection process that didn’t protect anybody with additional needs other than if they were female.

“Now, you could if you were female, they were doing something, but if you had a disability then not. And who determines that?”

She believes parties don’t do enough to identify people with disabilities or to empower them to choose how they get involved.

She also mentions access to meeting halls and inclusive communications.

“How are we being inclusive to get disabled people along to meetings in the first place? A lot of meetings take place in halls where you can’t get into, or no hearing loops, so people sit there and can’t hear what’s been said. There’s no interpreters been booked.

“I mean, all this costs money, I accept, but if you’re trying to be inclusive and trying to get the people who represent the communities involved in politics then you start at the grassroots. And my own party do very little for that.”

 Although Labour has supported the One in Five campaign, McMahon says she doesn’t know what action is being committed to.

“Unfortunately for me, they talk a good game, and I know that sounds very harsh, but our leader has stood outside parliament recently with the One in Five campaign very recently holding the pledge card.

“There would be two issues there,” she adds. “One, what is her pledge? What is she doing as a party leader? Because I don’t know it.

“And secondly, if I don’t know it and I was an MSP, how on earth do ordinary party members know it? 

“You know, if an MSP doesn’t know, then surely to goodness we’re failing them on those counts as well.”

Read the full interview in the latest Holyrood Magazine.

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