I’m pleased to be asked to support the One in Five campaign – a campaign to encourage, empower and increase political participation amongst disabled people in Scotland. The Scottish Socialist Party’s policy platform is a remarkably progressive and inclusive one with respect to disabled rights, therefore the One in Five campaign is a good fit for us.
The campaign asks its supporters to sign up to a five point charter which includes a pledge to make meetings accessible to all and to ask people what their needs are, then to put them into action where available. It seems obvious, but it’s often overlooked – how often do we inadvertently forget about accessibility and empowerment, having meetings up stairs, and focussing on able-bodied activism. Ultimately, it’s a promise from ourselves to widen access to our grassroots politics, to be aware, and support everyone’s needs and contribution – and if there’s one thing the referendum campaign taught us, it was the supreme value of all-inclusive politics. We should never, never forget it.
Our Executive Committee unanimously agreed to offer support to the campaign.
The official campaign launch outside Parliament was well-attended, with disability and equality campaigners of all colours finding themselves in front of cameras. (Don’t tell him, but Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy was seen wearing the red and yellow colours of the SSP on his One in Five t-shirt.)
There are two people I’d like to namecheck for raising awareness of disability politics. The fearless Susan Archibald – who has fought tirelessly for disability rights with the Independent Living Movement. She’s gotten a reputation as a personality who “gets things done”. The other person is possibly the single biggest reason I’m involved in politics today, the chair of Trans Media Watch, Jennie Kermode. An infinitely patient teacher, writer, comrade and a friend – with hair-raising stories of getting around Glasgow in a wheelchair, with its long, steep, inaccessible pavements.
As a result of agreeing to implement the One in Five charter – the SSP should work to ensure our branch meetings, activism, public events and publications are accessible. On the technical front: we’re presently remastering our website, so screen readers work well, subtitling our campaign videos, training our comrades in live-streaming, so that as many of our public engagements as possible are available immediately online. We should also consult with the RNIB with respect to our published works.
These are just some of the ongoing matters that have been raised as a result of bringing One in Five to our executive. This sounds like a lot of overlooked work. And it is. In our ongoing campaign for socialism in Scotland – and the most progressive suite of disabled rights policies that I’ve ever seen – we occasionally drop the ball. We must pledge to pick it back up.
Sandra Webster, SSP national co-spokesperson said: “Supporting One in Five is the type of party we are. With the ongoing attacks on people with disabilities and long term health conditions, it is crucial we as a party empower and support people with disabilities. This is not an optional extra but part of our political DNA.”
So, what’s next? What happens when a council doesn’t make its polling stations accessible? What happens when a political party ignores the needs of disabled people? In short, what are the political and social consequences and ramifications of ignoring the needs and the shutting off of a fifth of the electorate? We must back up words with actions.
John McArdle, of the Black Triangle Disability Benefits campaign put some quiet steel in his response: “Ignoring the votes of disabled people as Labour have done by not opposing disability cuts and joining in a LibLabCon cuts and austerity consensus has meant that in Scotland the party has haemorrhaged votes to the SNP and other Yes parties.”
Jamie Szymkowiak, founder of One in Five, says: “I’m delighted The One in Five campaign has the support of the SSP. It’s extremely encouraging that by signing up, they have reviewed their commitments to disabled members. I am particularly looking forward to meeting the Dundee branch as they have invited us along to discuss disability related issues before signing up themselves.”
As is clearly stated in the SSP’s diversity and equality policy agenda – we call for “funding and support for disabled people’s organisations to ensure the views of disabled people are clearly heard”. This is a strong statement of intent. We hereby invite and welcome all political parties and the Scottish Government to follow suit, to continue the inclusive work that they do, and ensure that we never ignore one in five Scots in participative political processes.
If we fail at this, we fail at democracy. End of story.