The SNP have dropped plans to abolish a key disability passenger group, after strong campaigning from Labour MSPs and disability groups.
The Scottish Government had proposed to get rid of the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS), which advises Scottish Ministers on the transport needs of disabled people in Scotland, and replace it with a subcommittee of the Public Transport Users’ Committee for Scotland (PTUC).
Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie led the battle in the Scottish Parliament to save MACS. She welcomed the Scottish Government U-turn, which came after she won the support of the Scottish Parliament’s Transport Infrastructure and Climate Change committee.
Cathy said: “I’m pleased that the Scottish Government has started listening to disabled people and their organisations. Disability groups were quite clear that they wanted to retain and strengthen the existing committee as a direct line to Ministers, rather than forcing them to fight for room on the PTUC agenda in order to make their views known.
“The Scottish Government plans would have been a backwards step for the sake of political dogma. The motivation for this was an ill-thought out manifesto commitment to reduce quango numbers. This was presumably viewed as an easy target, but such pandering to the numbers game would not have improved matters for public transport users or disabled people. Neither would it have provided more efficient working, since the two organisations already have a common secretariat.
“The plans would have shunted discussion to a PTUC sub-committee, squeezing disabled people’s representation on public transport, and strangling their voices on other transport. Three places on the PTUC would not have been sufficient to reflect the diversity of needs amongst disabled people, and MACS also deals with more than just public transport – there are also issues around private and hired vehicles. The PTUC could not deal with matters that are not covered by their public transport remit.
“MACS has been allowed to run down and the threat of dissolution has led to staff and members leaving. Now that it has been saved, the Scottish Government must return MACS to health; both it and the PTUC should be given the resources that they need to do their job – and Ministers should do theirs by listening to them.”
Labour’s transport spokesperson Des McNulty added
“I am delighted that the Scottish Government has now accepted the decision of the transport Committee that MACs should be retained. This is a victory for common sense and will ensure that the views of disabled people will be heard when policies are being developed and monitored.”