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by Jenni Davidson
05 August 2016
One in Five campaign launches plan to get more disabled people into politics

One in Five campaign launches plan to get more disabled people into politics

Ryan McMullan, Jeremy Balfour, Jamie Szymkowiak and Nicola Ross launch One in Five's Scotland 2021 plan

The Scottish Parliament’s only self-identifying disabled MSP, Jeremy Balfour, joined campaigners this week to launch plans to tackle the underrepresentation of disabled people in politics.

Campaign group One in Five – which refers to the statistic that one in five people have some kind of disability – published its Scotland 2021: Our Plan to Turn One in Five Into A Reality discussion paper outlining measures parties and the parliament can take to see more disabled people elected to political office in Scotland by 2021.

The paper proposes that Scottish political parties create new posts for disability officers on their national executive committees, have mental health representatives and improve data collection to monitor the progress of disabled people in politics. 

Recommendations for the Scottish Parliament include the appointment of a welfare officer, the continuation of internships for disabled people, gym memberships and disability equality training for all parliamentarians.

One in Five also repeats its previous requests for accessible meetings and materials, including support for people with learning disabilities.


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Conservative MSP Balfour has put forward a motion to the Scottish Parliament in support of the Scotland 2021 proposals.

He said: “Disability comes in many different forms and any training that can help MSPs better engage with their constituents is to be welcomed.

“That’s why I have raised a parliamentary motion recognising the One in Five campaign’s discussion paper and welcome the Access to Elected Office Fund.

“I also hope to encourage my parliamentary colleagues to undertake Disability Equality Training when we return from recess.”

Jamie Szymkowiak, founder of One in Five, said he was “delighted” that Balfour was raising the issue in parliament.

“Our campaign’s discussion paper includes contributions from disabled activists from all of Scotland’s major political parties so we hope that Parliament and its political parties act upon the points raised,” he said.

The discussion paper follows the opening of the Scottish Government’s £200,000 Access to Elected Office Fund Scotland (AEOFS), which provides financial support for the extra costs that disabled people might face in becoming candidates for an election or fighting a political campaign, earlier this week.

But although AEOFS is intended to remove the financial barriers facing prospective disabled politicians, One in Five activists say political parties and the Scottish Parliament need to do more to make politics more accessible to disabled people.

Ryan McMullan, One in Five ambassador and Scottish Labour member, said: “The Access to Elected Office Fund opened earlier this week and offers financial support for disabled people seeking to become councillors at next year’s local elections.

“Our discussion paper demonstrates disabled people face more than just financial barriers to politics and we hope our paper illustrates what can be done to remove the non-financial barriers.”

The motion has been supported by MSPs from the Conservatives, Labour, Greens and the SNP.

Following the launch of the campaign, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has committed to her MSPs receiving disability awareness training after the summer recess.

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