A disabled lawyer could seek a judicial review of the Scottish government’s draft budget, which he claims discriminates against disabled people by cutting hundreds of millions of pounds from local authority funding.
Daniel Donaldson (pictured), director of Legal Spark Law Centre in Glasgow, is discussing a possible legal action with disabled people and their organisations concerned about the implications of this month’s budget.
He said Legal Spark was being contacted by increasing numbers of disabled people who have faced “unfair reassessments” of their support packages by cost-cutting councils, even before the SNP budget saw proposed cuts of £350 million to council funding, a reduction of 3.5 per cent.
Donaldson said: “We cannot see how the Scottish government’s current budget complies with their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998.
“It is reasonably foreseeable that if you cut services within the public sector, that the people who rely the most on those services will be adversely affected.
“Disabled people and the carers of disabled people rely on the support they receive from the public sector.
“It is therefore arguable that the budget proposed by the finance secretary discriminates against both disabled people and their carers.
“No-one should have to face discrimination, or have their dignity violated as a result of cuts in the public sector.”
Donaldson pointed to last week’s statement by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), which described the budget cuts as “totally unacceptable” and “catastrophic for jobs and services within Scottish local government”, including those for older and disabled people.
He is hoping to avoid a judicial review by obtaining a written pledge from finance secretary John Swinney that support for disabled people and carers will not be cut as a result of the budget.
A Scottish government spokeswoman said its budget “does not discriminate” and that its budget equality statement had been an “integral part” of the budget process.
She said: “Despite ongoing cuts to our budget as a result of the UK government’s continuing austerity programme, the Scottish government is continuing to protect people and treat local government very fairly with settlements maintained on a like-for-like basis over 2012-16.
“This is part of an overall budget which has protected the third sector and equality budgets, maintained welfare mitigation funding, invested in energy efficiency and fuel poverty measures, and will see us boost the supply of affordable homes and homes for social rent.
“Local government in Scotland starts from a healthy base, especially compared to the position in England where councils faced a significant real terms cut in funding.
“This funding proposal delivers a strong but challenging financial settlement for local government which will be strengthened by our joint working to improve outcomes for local people through health and social care integration.”
But Donaldson said that the Scottish government’s Fly the Flag for Human Rights campaign and its consultation on implementing the UN disability convention were meaningless unless it took positive action to give “tangible meaning” to words such as “equality, human rights, dignity and respect”.
He is now hoping to hear from more disabled people interested in taking legal action against the Scottish government*.
*Daniel Donaldson can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org