A fund aimed at encouraging more disabled people to participate in politics and stand as local councillors next year has been opened.
The £200,000 will be used to help to cover additional costs for accessible transport or communications support for disabled people who wish to stand for selection or election in the 2017 local government elections.
Disabled people are significantly under-represented as local councillors and the fund will back up the wide ranging support to increase their representation.
Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman said: “Representing my constituents is a tremendous honour and something that everyone should have the opportunity to do, whether they are disabled or not.
“We know disabled people often find it difficult to access elected offices due to the many barriers that exist and the additional cost of being disabled can be one of them, but it is vital for society that all our groups are represented in politics and elected offices at all levels.
“This funding will help break down some of those barriers and comes as a direct response to one of the key demands from disabled people’s campaign organisations, who all highlight that funding is a major barrier for disabled people to even consider accessing politics. This is not about giving anyone an advantage in seeking election but rather leveling the playing field to make it fairer for everyone.
“And it underlines the Scottish Government’s commitment to ensuring equal opportunities for more people from under-represented groups.”
Former MSP Dennis Robertson said: “Disabled people can face many barriers when coming into politics. Money should never be one of these, so I am absolutely delighted that the Fund is available and hope that it helps more disabled people to put themselves forward as candidates in the 2017 election.”
Former MSP Siobhan McMahon said: “During campaigns I often challenged myself to do more than I was physically capable of. The pressures on disabled people can leave us feeling like we need to prove ourselves. For many there are financial barriers to entering politics.
“I hope this Fund will break down those barriers for disabled people seeking election in 2017. We now need action from all political parties to help disabled people be more equally represented in politics.”
Sally Witcher, CEO of Inclusion Scotland said: “Inclusion Scotland has long worked to help ensure that policymakers take into account disabled people’s views when making decisions that directly affect our daily lives. The new Fund allows us to go further – to help ensure that disabled people actually become those policymakers. But we cannot do it alone.
“Any Party that takes disability equality seriously needs to take action, not just because it is important for our politicians to be representative of the electorate they serve, but because disabled people understand through their lived experience what needs to be done to achieve that goal.”