Council candidates quizzed at hustings

Jacquie Bonar makes her point to Stewart McDonald, Scottish Labour, during ENABLE Scotlands hustings event in St Matthews Primary.
Jacquie Bonar makes her point to Stewart McDonald, Scottish Labour, during ENABLE Scotlands hustings event in St Matthews Primary.

Local council election candidates in East Dunbartonshire were quizzed about their plans should they be elected at a unique hustings in St Matthew’s Primary in Bishopbriggs on March 23.

The hustings was arranged by learning disability charity ENABLE Scotland to bring people who have a learning disability face-to-face with local politicians to debate key local issues.

Scott Ferguson (Green), Paul Ferrettin (SNP), Stewart McDonald (Scottish Labour) and Sheila Mechan (Scottish Conservatives) attended the event and were asked what they would do about local issues if they are elected to East Dunbartonshire Council.

Jacqueline Bonar, an ENABLE Scotland member, was one of the group questioning the prospective councillors.

Jacqueline said: “Among our priorities were housing, timing of traffic lights and inclusion at schools, which are all important issues for people who have a learning disability.

“We also talked about the isolation of not feeling included in council decisions and being properly represented.

“At the end of the meeting we gave all the candidates a copy of our local manifesto. I think the candidates left with a clear message that more needs to be done to include people who have a learning disability, not just in voting, but in their communities as a whole.”

The East Dunbartonshire hustings was one of 19 organised by ENABLE Scotland, stretching from Inverness to Inveraray.

The learning disability organisation also joined forces with the Electoral Commission in a bid to make the voting process more accessible for people who have a learning disability.

With funding from the Electoral Commission ENABLE Scotland produced fact sheets to support people who have a learning disability, their families and supporters, through the voting process.

Kayleigh Thorpe, Head of Campaigns and Activism for ENABLE Scotland said:

“Traditionally the number of people who have a learning disability who vote is only around 30 per cent.

“But last year, 80 per cent of people who took part in #ENABLEtheVote used their vote in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections, and we hope to see the same happen this year.

“People who have learning disabilities too often face lifelong exclusion and lack of opportunity to be part of their community. Our accessible hustings events create the space for our members and the people we support to have their voice heard in the pre-election debate.”