Tag Archives: disability

Mind the Gap

Cathy Peattie has called on the Scottish Parliament to heed the recommendations of the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity – and of its own report published before the last election.

“Leonard Cheshire have published a very good report highlighting the problems that disabled people face when travelling,” said Cathy.

“Transport is one of the biggest barriers to work, study and leisure. I know just how big a problem it is, because when I chaired the Equal Opportunities Committee we spoke to people from all over Scotland, and produced a report to the Parliament containing recommendations for action to remove the barriers and create new opportunities for disabled people. The report was well received, and made similar recommendations to Leonard Cheshire’s, as well as further recommendations to address issues such as the accessibility of buildings, tackling negative and obstructive attitudes, and improving how institutions deal with disability.

“That report is available to the current parliament if it wants to pick up the baton and run with it, but so far, little has been done. I welcome the pressure from the Mind The Gap report, and hope that it will be followed up by a concerted campaign to get action. It would of course be better if the parliament and the Scottish Government led the way instead of being pushed, but one way or the other it needs to move, so that disabled people find it easier to get where they want to go, to take up employment, education and leisure opportunities.”

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Scottish Government U-turn

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.”

On the buses

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Cathy Peattie has highlighted the shortcomings of public transport in the Falkirk area, and called for action to tackle the problems, including bus regulation.

“Public transport is one of the most persistent and widespread sources of dissatisfaction among my constituents,” she said.

“I wish that First ScotRail would give my constituents a better deal. Fares from Falkirk and Polmont to Edinburgh and Glasgow are more per mile than most. A passenger station in Grangemouth would also be exceedingly welcome.

“Rail might be expensive and serve too few places, but bus travel is undoubtedly the biggest bugbear. If we are serious about tackling climate change and encouraging people to use public transport, we need better buses, more routes and timetables that meet the public’s needs.

“It is too easy to say that there is no demand when the lack of services has forced travellers to use private transport. It is too easy to say that people would rather use their cars and that buses are uncomfortable, inaccessible and expensive. It is also too easy to say that services are not viable when, if the truth be known, they arrive late, leave early and miss connections, if they appear at all.

“People need reliable and affordable public transport that is a pleasure to use, not a nightmare. Without it, we will not achieve our targets for modal shift and climate change.

“To be fair, some bus companies realise their shortcomings and the better among them attempt to take on board passengers’ views, but the bottom line is always profits, not people.

“Competition between bus companies is often imperfect, if it exists at all. In such circumstances, we cannot expect companies to provide adequate self-regulation and to achieve proper integration of public transport. We need Scotland-wide regulation. We also need to address the Scottish Government’s policies, which have left Scotland’s bus operators with higher costs than those in other parts of the United Kingdom and have led to massive fare increases for bus passengers throughout Scotland.

“We have seen a secret deal to extend the rail franchise and higher-than-inflation increases in rail fares. There has also been outrage among users of ferry services on the Clyde, in the northern isles and on most routes in Argyll because of discrimination in ferry fares between islands.

“In particular, we should strive for better provision for older and disabled travellers, and young families with prams and small children. Bus timetables should include information about low-loader and accessible buses. I still hear stories about disabled people waiting an hour or more for an accessible bus. That is not good enough.

“Free bus passes have been very well received by the people of Scotland. I have yet to hear a good reason for not extending concessionary travel to those who are on the lower rate of the disability allowance. We must also address the need for a concessionary travel scheme for those who depend on community transport, and I welcome what the minister said about that. It is time to stop dithering and to regain the momentum to improve public transport in Scotland.”