Scottish plan for making rights a reality is ‘major milestone’


The Scottish government has described how it hopes to make the UN disability convention “a reality” for disabled people in Scotland.

A draft plan, published this week, includes more than 50 recommendations which it hopes will help Scotland implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The draft delivery plan for 2016-20 includes commitments on welfare reform, public transport, disability hate crime, housing, accessible design and access to justice.

The plan points out that disabled people in Scotland are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people, while a total of 230,000 more adapted homes are needed.

The plan has been put out for consultation until 4 January 2016, with the final plan to be published next summer.

The document is deeply critical of the UK government’s welfare reforms, which it says are having a “disproportionate impact on the lives of disabled people”.

Among commitments is a promise to open the new Scottish Independent Living Fund – which is already open to former users of the Independent Living Fund – to new users.

On accessible housing, it says the SNP government will “consider in greater depth the issues raised by disabled people’s organisations about the availability of accessible housing”, while it will publish a guide to help architects design accessible buildings that “fully meet the needs of disabled people”.

The document also pledges to measure how NHS bodies in Scotland are “embracing equality, diversity and human rights”, and to abolish fees for employment tribunals that were introduced by the UK government in 2013.

The Scotland bill is due to transfer powers on social security for disabled people to the Scottish government, which promises a system that “treats people with dignity and respect during their time applying for, being assessed and receiving disability benefits”.

The Scottish government also promises to work with a local authority to develop a pilot project aimed at “preventing and removing disability hate crime from society”.

Dr Jim Elder-Woodward, chair of the Scottish Independent Living Coalition, said the draft plans were “a major milestone” and “a good starting point towards building a fairer Scotland for all disabled people”. 

But he added: “There is a way yet to go before disabled people can enjoy their legal and moral rights of choice, control, dignity, and freedom.

“As disabled people we know best the changes needed to remove the disabling barriers we experience.

“We welcome these draft commitments and urge disabled people to seize this opportunity to have their say and to share with the Scottish government what needs to happen to make the rights we have on paper the reality we experience every day.”

John McArdle, co-founder of the Scottish-based grassroots campaigning organisation Black Triangle, also welcomed the document and said it was “very encouraging”.

Communities minister and SNP MSP Marco Biagi said: “At a time when the UK government is undermining the human rights of disabled people with its programme of austerity and welfare cuts, we are committed to furthering their rights and engaging a wider section of the population in the debate.

“We firmly believe that disabled people’s rights are human rights, and that human rights must apply to everyone.”

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities also published its own draft delivery plan, intended to complement the Scottish government’s version, with 30 actions of its own on issues such as social security, independent living, accessible transport, housing, education and employment.

Picture: The Scottish government’s Victoria Quay building in Edinburgh

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