20 years of Scottish Parliament

June 6, 2019 Blog - ENABLE Scotland Jan Savage - Executive Director of Campaigns and External Affairs

Celebrating 20 years

On Tuesday morning, I felt decidedly older. It wasn’t my birthday, but I joined colleagues from the third sector in the airy surroundings of the Scottish Poetry Library to celebrate twenty years of effective charity campaigning in Scotland, marking two decades since the new Scottish Parliament first met.

It wasn’t just the M8 at 7.45am that made me feel my age – the lovely coffee and bright chatter on offer helped with that – and the chance to catch up with many I tend to only see on Twitter was a particular treat. No, it was more the realisation that I have been part of this movement for 17 years – and what a 17 years it has been! It was a lovely and inspiring moment to reflect, and SCVO have launched a beautiful book charting the impact of the third sector on influencing legislative change in the Scottish Parliament.

From the smoking ban, to free personal care for the elderly, to the repeal of Section 28, to minimum alcohol pricing – many of the milestone legislative moments in the Scottish Parliament have been directly related to the campaigning skills of our third sector in Scotland.

Shaping our sector

And, I would argue, the Scottish Parliament itself has undoubtedly had an impact on the shaping of our third sector in Scotland. Whereas campaigning charities had been operating from London at that time, Scottish based charities now had the opportunity to directly influence policy and legislation closer to home – and in response, built the skills and capabilities internally to support them to do this. And equally, UK wide London-based charities had to start acknowledging and organising differently to influence change.

Many of my colleagues in the sector will remember the early days of Parliament, and how different that culture was. Twitter wasn’t a thing, myspace and bebo were the favoured social media channels of the day, and the Scottish Parliament didn’t even have a permanent home – plenary sessions sat in the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly Hall, and staff and MSPs were based in our temporary offices at PHQ. At the start of my career, I had the privilege of working in the first sitting of the new Scottish Parliament, and volunteering as an event usher at the official opening ceremony of the Scottish Parliament building.

The principles of transparency, openness, equality and accountability that were woven into the very fabric and design of our Scottish Parliament building are the principles that have accelerated the pace of social change in Scotland – and this is something we should all be proud of.

Leading change for 65 years

At ENABLE Scotland, we are also marking a landmark milestone this year – 65 years of campaigning for an equal society for every person who has a learning disability.

In the 65 years since this charity was set up by five inspirational sets of parents – five family campaigners – ENABLE Scotland has led significant change for people who have learning disabilities in Scotland. For 45 years before devolution, those families reached out to more families who together worked tirelessly to deliver better rights and inclusion for their children – including winning the right to access social work support via the Social Work Scotland Act 1965 and for their children to receive an education in 1972, when the law changes and deemed that children who had a learning disability were no longer deemed ineducable.

In the 1990s, ENABLE Scotland set up community-based groups led by people who have a learning disability, who also ensured that ENABLE Scotland’s campaigning priorities continued to be guided by their lived experience.

Impact of devolution on the rights of people who have a learning disability

With the advent of devolution in 1999 came a renewed opportunity for Scots who had a learning disability to be empowered to influence change.

It was the Scottish Parliament that introduced the first learning disability strategy – The Same As You in 2000. That significant policy document, for the first time in Scotland, committed to close residential institutions and support people who have learning disabilities to move into their communities.

It was the Scottish Parliament that, in the same year, introduced the presumption of mainstreaming in education via the Standards in Scotland’s Schools Act, and which then also passed the Additional Support for Learning Act 2009 – widely regarded as one of the best pieces of legislation shaping the rights of children to receive the support they need to succeed, regardless of setting – working to ensure our schools and society are inclusive of all.

It was then the Scottish Parliament that gave people the right to direct their own care and support through the introduction of the Social Care (Self Directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013, on which the foundations of our award winning social care support is now based. As with all legislation, the devil is in the implementation – but you cannot argue that our legislative framework to empower an inclusive society is strong.

And where charity campaigns are at their best, they work hand in hand with legislators to make changes to remove any barriers to accessing those rights.

Campaign success

The SCVO event inspired me to think about the change we have achieved. In the six years since I have joined ENABLE Scotland, I am proud that we have led campaigns for real change; campaigns about the real challenging issues that face people who have a learning disability in Scotland today – accessibility and participation, attitudes and respect, social care, and education.

• In 2013 we led a Help Us Be Spontaneous (HUBS) campaign to reduce the number of hours notice for disabled passengers on Scotland’s trains from 24 hours to 1 hour, earning us a place on the shortlist for SCVO Campaign of the Year.

• In 2014 we launched Be The Change, challenging attitudes to learning disabilities in communities across Scotland – today we have a network of change champions, empowered to educate their networks about learning disability and armed with tools for schools and youth groups to challenge stigma

• In 2015, we led a successful Stop The Bus campaign to reinstate access to concessionary bus travel for people who have a learning disability, unlocking the right to independent travel for thousands of people, and earning us the title of Campaign of the Year at the Herald Society Awards 2015

• In 2016, we led a successful Picking Up the Pieces campaign to win the right for family carers to have access to a conversation about emergency and future planning on the face of the Carers Scotland Act 2016, earning us Campaign of the Year at the Scottish Social Services Awards.

• In 2017, we launched Included In The Main, a successful campaign to improve the rights of children to access additional support in Scotland’s schools, which for the first time captured the opinions of education staff too. This campaign led to the publication of the first ever set of guidance on how to deliver inclusive education, 17 years after children gained the right to be educated in the same setting, and earned us the title of Campaign of the Year 2017 at the SCVO Awards.

• In 2018, we led a successful campaign to get the agreement of the Scottish Government that social care workers should be paid the same rate for all hours worked – a significant milestone for the workforce who enable people to live independently.

• And across the incredibly turbulent political and constitutional period of the last four years, we developed our ENABLE The Vote model, which has empowered people who have learning disabilities to participate in the democratic process – be that Scottish or European referendum, local election, Scottish Parliament elections, or General Elections!

For those of us involved in this movement for change – people, members, politicians, policy and campaigns teams, comms team, frontline staff, and sector leaders – taking the time to reflect on impact is really important.

So thank you to Anna and the team at SCVO for forcing this seasoned campaigner to take a moment and reflect on impact. Because when it comes down to it, regardless of party or politics or cause – getting things done is all that matters, and our Parliament has opened so many more doors to make change happen. Here’s to the next 20 years!


Back to news
Share this: