Visiting the Scottish Parliament: Brexit discussion

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SCLD were one of a number of organisations invited to attend a meeting at the Scottish Parliament. In this blog post Catriona Rowley, SCLD’s Policy and Engagement Officer, shares an overview of the meeting, which was an opportunity for disabled people and disabled people’s organisations to meet with MSPs Jeane Freeman and Michael Russell, to share the concerns they have about Brexit.

Brian and Bianca from the Keys to Life Expert Group and Cameron, SCLD’s Events and Information Assistant, attended to share their thoughts as people with learning disabilities. SCLD staff members attended too: Maura, Jim, Kenny and myself (Catriona).

Cameron, Brian, Bianca and I met before going to parliament to talk about what everyone understood about Brexit and what everyone wanted to make sure was considered by the MSP’s. Cameron and I were both excited that it was our first visit to parliament but everyone else had been lots of times before. It was fun getting to see the parliament building and the meeting was in one of the committee rooms which made everyone sitting round the table look very important. I left the fancy tables to Cameron, Bianca and Brian and sat with my other colleagues in the ‘cheap seats’ at the back but couldn’t resist the opportunity to pose for a photo pretending to be a Member of the Scottish Parliament.

At the meeting. Jeane Freeman MSP introduced herself and explained that as she has a role in ensuring people with disabilities are heard she was keen that there was an opportunity for people to tell Michael Russell MSP their concerns so that he can represent these views at meetings with the UK government in his role as Scotland’s representative on Brexit negotiations.

The main concerns that people in attendance had were about:

  • Losing disabled people’s rights that have been enshrined in European human rights law,
  • Losing social care staff from EU member states,
  • EU funding has been important for many third sector organisations and some of the disabled peoples organisations who were present said they had been successful getting funding from the EU that they could not get from the UK Government.
  • The risk that there will be less money around and that this will mean reductions to benefits and support packages, and
  • The lack of information on Brexit in accessible formats such as easy read, BSL or other alternative formats.

Bianca was particularly interested to hear what will replace European Human Rights Laws to ensure that people do not lose the rights they currently have in law. Cameron was interested in what will happen with border controls because he goes on holiday a lot! Brian would like to retire abroad and therefore wanted to know if people can still buy houses abroad.

The two MSP’s said that they will try to make more easy to understand information available but that there isn’t very much information about at all so it is hard to do.

Otherwise they said that they shared people’s concerns and urged individuals to contact their MP about them as well as the decisions will be made in Westminster.

One attendee said that as a disabled person she often employs people from Eastern Europe as her personal assistants. She shared her concern that “If there is no money and no people to help me then I have no rights”.

It was an interesting first visit to parliament and I hope that the Scottish Government will be providing many more opportunities for people with disabilities to share their views and concerns about Brexit and other matters.