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60 Stories - Jackie Baillie MSP

Image of Jackie Baillie MSPJackie Baillie MSP
Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Learning Disability Jackie Baillie (MSP) is proud of the impact the group has on Government’s decisions about public life in Scotland. 
She says: “The Cross Party is a bridge between people’s concerns, their desires, their aspirations and what’s possible within Government.”
In 2001, Jackie formed the group after being approached by former executive director of campaigns at ENABLE Scotland, Mike Holmes, and former trustee, Joan Fraser.
“I had a visit from Mike and Joan - and talk about persuasive people!  They came to see me after a Cabinet reshuffle and Joan urged me to start a Cross Party Group on Learning Disability.
“I accepted on the basis that I didn’t want it to be like every other Cross Party Group where they exist to improve the sum total of the knowledge of MSPs.  Valuable though that is; I wanted it to be more of a campaigning group.”
The group meets two or three times a year and discusses many different issues which affect people who have a learning disability.  Recently, it has focused on the new Government strategy on learning disability, ‘The Keys to Life’.  The group is open to anyone who would like to join: something that Jackie thinks is paramount to its success.
“It’s a very inclusive approach.  Whoever wants to join gets to join.  I wanted people who have a learning disability to make up the overwhelming majority of the group so they could feel that the parliament was theirs,” says Jackie. 
To help promote this sense of ownership Jackie arranged for the Cross Party Group to visit the old parliament on the Mound, and then again when the parliament moved to its new home in Holyrood.  This gave members of the group a chance to grill Ministers and participate directly in democracy.
The group has helped to refine and mould Government policies.  A recent achievement has been the role the Cross Party Group has played in helping to support the Help Us Be spontaneous campaign (HUBS), which was started by young members of ENABLE Scotland.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of barriers to public transport for people with a disability in Scotland.  The Cross Party Group pursued this campaign with fantastic results.
Jackie explains: “The Government says that in the next franchise for Scotrail, they will ensure that ideas from the HUBS campaign are integrated.”
The group has stayed true to its original aims in campaigning and achieving, rather than simply exchanging ideas and information.
The membership of organisations like ENABLE Scotland, Down’s Syndrome Scotland and Quarriers, help keep campaigning at the heart of the group.  Jackie is keenly aware of the pivotal role organisations like these are to Scottish life.
“I think the third sector in Scotland punches above its weight.  Organisations like ENABLE Scotland are highly important to public life in Scotland.  They deliver real opportunities to people who have a learning disability.  Their agenda is all about empowering people.”
In the future, the Cross Party Group plans to continue supporting campaigns and discussing a wide range of issues such as hate crime and the Scottish referendum.  Jackie believes it is one of the most successful Cross Party Groups and is proud to be its Convenor.  She says:
“As long as the group continues to be active and energetic, I can’t see any reason why it shouldn’t go from strength to strength.”​

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