Brexit and independence dominated the General Election campaign. Brexit deservedly so as it poses a huge risk to our social and environmental protections, our economy and public services, while the independence obsession of the pro-UK parties diverted attention from the Tories’ track record in office.
In particular, I’m disappointed there wasn’t more scrutiny of Westminster’s welfare reforms which have had a hugely negative impact on disabled people.
This week was an important one in Scotland’s devolution journey. Responsibility to legislate for a range of benefits, including Disability Living Allowance and Carers Benefit, was formally passed to the Scottish Parliament.
Despite the importance of council services, such as schools, social care and housing, last week’s local elections were overshadowed by national events. Those of us who care about local democracy faced an uphill battle. With little national media interest, a Tory prime minister trampling over the campaign by calling a general election in the middle of it, and other parties cynically trying to make it about constitutional issues, it was one of the toughest campaigns I can recall.
This year, some parents leaving hospital with newborn babies in their arms have also been taking home a baby box. Providing a bundle of essentials like clothes, books and blankets can help to take some of the stress out of preparing for a new arrival. This is welcome, but we need to keep in mind that many new families need much more than a baby box to give their newborn the best start in life.
Paying all citizens a basic amount of money to live off, regardless of status, is at the same time a very old and a thoroughly modern idea. As far back as 1795, American revolutionary Thomas Paine wanted to reduce inequalities between people who did and did not own land by creating a nation fund, supported by an extra land tax, that would have paid a lump sum to everyone at the age of 21.
The past few days have been a calamity for Labour. At their Scottish conference the London Mayor compared independence with racism, their only Scottish MP bizarrely claimed there is no mandate for a fresh referendum on independence, and their UK leader said we must get on with Brexit despite Scotland voting to Remain.
But amid all that, one small piece of logic did emerge.
The devolution of some aspects of the social security system is proving to be a huge opportunity for Scotland to show that a fairer society is possible. The package of powers devolved in the wake of the independence referendum was limited but even so, we can use these powers in creative ways to prove that we are a caring nation.
"For a while I had to stop going to events, to educational stuff to do research and I’ve even turned down work in Edinburgh.”
The words of Helen Jeffrey. Helen and her husband Rab, a retired couple from Bo’ness near Linlithgow, who have made the headlines with their plan to run a bus service between their town and Edinburgh since cuts in public funding have reduced local services.
A sick child is every parent’s worst nightmare at the best of times, but it is usually just a cold or a runny nose and rarely lasts more than a few days. This is not the case for the parents of the 5,800 babies born across Scotland every year who require specialist neonatal care – so small and fragile, fighting for their life in an incubator surrounded by tubes and bleeping monitors that are helping to keep them alive.
This week, I spoke in a debate about a disability delivery plan. The government's “A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People” plan, which lays out an ambitious approach to achieving disability equality, is one that I broadly welcome.
With non-disabled people being almost twice as likely as disabled people to be in work, and given that that figure has barely changed in more than a decade, the Government’s aim to halve the disability employment gap is welcome and could not be more urgently needed.