Making our members’ voices heard

May 15, 2018 Blog - ENABLE Scotland Frank McKillop, Policy and Research Officer

The Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Learning Disability provides an ideal chance to get important issues discussed by politicians at Holyrood.

As the name suggests, the group includes Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) from different parties who work together to learn more about things that are affecting people who have learning disabilities and to raise the policies and laws that need to change with the Scottish Government.

The group’s Convener is Jackie Baillie MSP, and the Deputy Convener is Joan McAlpine MSP. The other members are Jeremy Balfour MSP, Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, Alison Johnstone MSP and Oliver Mundell MSP, meaning all five political parties are represented on the group.

The group meets four times a year and as well as politicians, it is attended by people who have learning disabilities and a range of organisations that support and campaign for them. ENABLE Scotland provides the group’s secretariat.

The Cross-Party Group on Learning Disability is one of the best attended groups at Holyrood and has an excellent record of leading the agenda on measures needed to deliver an equal society for every person who has a learning disability in Scotland.

Last autumn, the group held a discussion on where people who have learning disabilities live, which highlighted a range of important issues including the availability of appropriate housing, the accessibility of tenancy agreements and the need to balance sustainable care provision with people’s housing preferences.

The group agreed to table a Parliamentary Motion highlighting all these issues, and Joan McAlpine’s Motion has secured so much support from across the parties that it will be debated in the Chamber later this month.

At its last meeting in February, the group discussed two important issues – the provision of access and support into employment for people who have learning disabilities, and the experience of people who have learning disabilities in the criminal justice system.

Since that meeting, the Scottish Government has published two important consultations: one to gather more views and evidence on how to increase the employment of people who have disabilities in the public sector, and one which looks at creating a statutory Appropriate Adult service to ensure vulnerable people who come into contact with the justice system receive the same level of high quality support across Scotland.

The group’s next meeting at the Scottish Parliament is on Tuesday 29 May at 1pm, where we will hear from the Chair of the Independent Review of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 – a review which the Cross-Party Group campaigned for – and receive an update from the Scottish Government’s Keys to Life team.

This will be another opportunity for us to make sure that the voices of people who have learning disabilities are heard at Parliament and that important issues which affect them are prominent in the minds of politicians.

If you would like to attend Cross-Party Group meetings, please email

Frank McKillop is ENABLE Scotland’s Policy and Research Officer

Image © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

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