A recent survey found that almost three-quarters of people living with a disability in Scotland feel that their voice has not been heard in the referendum debate so far.
Fears about the ongoing reform of the welfare system, their ability to live independently, and the social care support on offer were the most pressing concerns given by those questioned in the survey.
Therefore, Disability Agenda Scotland (DAS) – a consortium of Scotland’s leading disability charities that cover everything from sensory loss to physical disability, learning disability and mental health organised a hustings to consider the question: What does a yes or no vote mean for disabled people in Scotland?
Anne appeared on the panel on behalf of Better Together. In delivering the opening statement, she spoke of the need to achieve social justice and civil rights for disabled people across the UK.
She highlighted that the Tory/Lib Dem welfare reforms have disproportionately affected disabled people but she said that a change of policy would improve the lives of people living with a disability rather than a change of the constitution. She also pointed out that welfare is currently distributed based on need rather than a postcode lottery and, therefore, being part of the UK has benefited Scotland as it has allowed resources to be pooled and shared leading to higher public spending in Scotland.
Anne also spoke of the achievements in civil rights for disabled people that have taken place over the last thirty years by people like Alf Morris and Bert Massie who fought for the rights of disabled people across the UK. And, while people with disabilities have difficulties getting their voice heard, she highlighted that it doesn’t matter whether they are trying to lobby Westminster or Holyrood. To make a real difference, there have to be changes to policies and politics to engage with disabled people rather than independence for Scotland.
She finished by saying that a yes vote is a gamble and often when gambling it’s those who have the least that lose out which means that disabled people will lose out. She believes that more will be achieved by standing shoulder to shoulder with disabled people across the UK and that’s why she is voting no.
Guide Dogs organised for the Transport Minister, Baroness Kramer, to receive a card for her birthday with messages from her parliamentary colleagues in support of for audio visual (AV) announcements on buses. Dame Anne’s message to the Minister was:
“Best wishes for your birthday. I hope you have a lovely day.
On your birthday, I wanted to let you know that, having recently joined local Guide Dog users on a blindfolded bus journey, I have witnessed first-hand how disorienting bus travel can be for those with a visual impairment. However, public transport offers a vital lifeline for people with disabilities by allowing them to travel independently and it helps to tackle issues such as social isolation. I do, therefore, hope you will support Guide Dogs campaign and have audio-visual announcements installed on all new buses.”
I joined around four hundred protesters to condemn the recent spiral of violence that has engulfed Gaza, southern Israel and the West Bank, which is continuing to bring untold suffering to innocent people. This spiral of violence that reinforces the insecurity of the Israelis and the humiliation of Palestinians has only lead to further suffering.
The scale of the suffering in Gaza today must be fully and frankly acknowledged. Because the life of a Palestinian child is worth no less than the life of an Israeli child.
The international community must offer immediate support to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza today. But we know that a humanitarian response, while necessary, is not itself sufficient. Ultimately the underlying cause of this latest crisis is the failure over decades to achieve a two state solution for two peoples. So although the urgent priority must be securing a ceasefire, the ultimate goal must be not just an end to the war, but a strategy for building the peace.
That is why I am calling for an end to the terror, the occupation and the seven year blockade.
Dame Anne Begg MP showed her support for a campaign led by the charity Guide Dogs to make travelling by bus easier for people with sight loss.
The MP for Aberdeen South went to a reception at the Houses of Parliament on 2 July in support of Guide Dogs’ campaign to make sure all new buses have audio visual (AV) next stop announcements, which are vital for blind and partially sighted bus travellers.
AV systems are only fitted to around one fifth of the bus fleet nationally, with the overwhelming majority of these buses operating in London.
James White, Guide Dog’s Campaigns Manager, said: “Buses are a lifeline for people who are blind or partially sighted, and we welcome the support of Anne Begg MP for people with sight loss to be able to travel safely and independently.”
Anne launched the new Peterculter Post Office by cutting the ribbon at an opening ceremony.
As part of Post Office plans to modernise the network and extend opening hours for customers, the new Peterculter branch located at 177 North Deeside Road Aberdeen AB14 0UJ offers Post Office® services from two open-plan counters from Monday – Saturday 08:00 – 21:00 & on Sundays 08:00 – 20:00.
Anne said: “I welcomed the news that Peterculter Post Office was to be modernised to create a bright modern open-plan branch and am delighted to have the opportunity to congratulate Mohammed and Shee on their hard work.”
A film nominated by Anne for a national film competition has collected first place.
Anne was delighted to see a group of her constituents from Ferryhill School and other school children from Sunny Bank and Skene Square Primaries won the under 19 award in the Parliament sponsored competition, ‘Film the House’.
Working with the Belmont Cinema and North East Scotland College, the school children aged between 8 and 12 developed a film about ghost bullies. The children wrote and starred in the film, and developed the film as part of the National Youth Festival of 2013.
Anne attended the Scottish Labour street stall on Union Street to speak to local people about why she is supporting a No vote on 18th September. She was joined by Shadow Scotland Secretary Margaret Curran MP and Lewis Macdonald MSP to promote the positive case for the Union.
Speaking after the stall, Margaret Curran said “It is very clear to me that the No vote is gaining ground.”
“I think our message, that people can have the best of both worlds is really working.”
Anne was delighted to host a meeting of her Women’s Forum with guest speaker Margaret Curran MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.
The main discussion surrounded the referendum on 18th September and why women are supporting the No campaign because it offers the best future for women across Scotland.
Margaret Curran also took the opportunity to showcase Scottish Labour’s five pledges for women. She said: “A year from now, I want to be Secretary of State for Scotland in a Labour Government. The first woman to hold that position in 12 years and only the second woman ever. Improving the lives of women across Scotland will be high on my agenda from day one in the Scotland Office.
That is why I have already set out an ambitious plan for the next Labour government in Scotland. One that gets to grips with the pay gap. That deals with the injustice of 5000 women being forced out of work after maternity leave. And makes sure that from our Parliament to our public bodies, we have truly equal representation, so that we properly represent the communities we serve.
This is real change that we can guarantee for women across Scotland less than a year from now.”
Anne’s Women’s Forum meet regularly to discuss any issues affecting them in a relaxed and informal environment. If you live in Aberdeen South and are interested in being added to the mailing list for Anne’s Women’s Forum, please contact Kathryn Russell at email@example.com.
Anne recently received correspondence from Kincorth Academy’s S1 pupils highlighting the Send All My Friends to School campaign.
The students enclosed decorated cut-outs which are now displayed in Anne’s constituency office.
The students also wrote letters highlighting in particular that 57 million of children worldwide have no access to education and they were shocked that 24 million of these children are disabled.
The students are calling for all children to have access to education and so, Anne has written to the Department for International Development, seeking clarification on what action the government is taking to address this serious issue.