“We will re-examine human rights laws,” nonchalantly declared Boris Johnson’s latest stand-in, Rishi Sunak, during Sunday’s debate on ITV.
From the savage, and unnecessary, cuts implemented by Ian Duncan-Smith to the callous disregard for the rights of disabled people displayed by Esther McVey, Sunak joined a list of Conservatives who strike fear into the hearts of many disabled people across Scotland, as well as the rest of the UK.
Today is the International Day of Disabled People and as we are 9 days from the most important election of our lifetimes, it’s only right to focus on what this means for disabled people.
Scotland hasn’t voted for a right-wing Tory government in decades – yet their policies are inflicted upon us. Policies like the Bedroom Tax or the dehumanising PIP application process or the extreme eligibility criteria for a Motability car that so many disabled people rely upon to live independently. Under the Tories, 3.8 million disabled adults and 300,000 disabled children across the UK are trapped in poverty.
Contrast this with the actions of the SNP Scottish Government who have put dignity and respect at the heart of Scotland’s new social security agency. Disability benefits are universal, not means tested, and the assessment process itself will be reformed to ensure they work for disabled people and will be carried out in the public sector
The SNP government is protecting the incomes of disabled people by mitigating the impact of Westminster’s damaging welfare reforms. This has included the establishment of the Scottish Independent Living Fund, which now provides support for over 2,600 disabled people across the country. We have also fully mitigated the Bedroom Tax, which would have disproportionately affected disabled people.
We are working towards ensuring disabled people in Scotland have access to homes built or adapted to enable them to participate as full and equal citizens. In addition, we are using new powers to support more disabled people in to work and to remove the barriers that disabled people face when participating in politics.
In what many are calling the ‘Brexit Election’ it’s clear that Scotland is at a crossroads. Down one path is Scotland ripped out the EU against its will and with another Tory government we didn’t vote for. At risk are the benefits of the European Accessibility Act and new proposals that could lead to publicly funded research being made freely available, enabling all scientists to utilise the latest data when creating new, cheaper treatments. It’s a path where the rights of disabled people will be side-lined in pursuit trade deal with Trump that leads to increased charges on medication that so many of us need to live.
Down the other path is the right to choose our own future. A better future. A vote for the SNP is a vote for a party with a track record of respecting the needs of disabled people and appreciating the value that each one of us offers our society.
A vote for the SNP is vote to make sure the voice of disabled people is heard. At this election vote SNP to escape Brexit and to lock Boris Johnson’s Tories out of office. Vote SNP so that, together, we can build a better Scotland.
Jamie Szymkowiak, co-convener of the SNP Disabled Member’s Group and the Group’s NEC representative