Disability Group In Vote Warning

Disability campaigners believe both sides of the referendum debate have underestimated the significance of their vote in the campaign.

About 400 disabled people attended an event in Glasgow today to question representatives from Better Together and Yes Scotland, including Green MSP Patrick Harvie, actress Libby McArthur, Scottish Labour's shadow health secretary Jackie Baillie and MP Anne McGuire.

Questions on the NHS and potential welfare changes were most prevalent during the event but issues including Trident, international relations and the currency of an independent Scotland were also discussed.

A number of those attending said they had already voted via postal ballot but other campaigners believe more could be done to sway them.

Both campaigns have made efforts to win over the disabled community - Yes Scotland launched the Disabled People for Yes group earlier this month while Gordon Brown argued that the "UK welfare state offers better protection for pensioners, disabled and the unemployed'' in a speech for Better Together last week.

Glasgow Disability Alliance chief executive Tressa Burke said: "Both sides have mentioned disabled people at different points but I don't think there's a grasp of how much power and vote disabled people have.

"There's over one million disabled people in Scotland and over two million people have long-term conditions. I think more should have been done to play to that audience.

"There has been some attempts by both campaigns to speak to disabled organisations but I think there can always be more.

"More importantly, in some ways for us, it's not what happens on September 18 but what happens on the 19th.''

Jacqueline Kelly was one of the audience members who will be voting Yes in the referendum and the key issues for her have been the NHS, social justice and equality.

She said: "The NHS is important, especially to a room full of people with disabilities and long-term conditions because we rely on the NHS.

"I would be dead if it wasn't for the NHS.

"My question was about equality and fairness, but they're all wrapped up into one another to be frank.''

Ms Kelly has been to a number of meetings during the campaign.

"Yes, we're disabled but first and foremost we are people, so we shouldn't be excluded into special events just for us,'' she said.

"We should be able to attend regular meetings of any group. Yes, we have our own specific needs but we have needs to interact with other people too.

"Did we need more particularly for the disabled community? Perhaps, but what we should remember is that we are just people, bottom line.''

Sheila Cameron has already used her postal ballot to register her No vote but feels the campaigns have spent too much time arguing with each other.

She said: "I think they're arguing too much and don't have enough facts and figures behind their statements.

"They're coming out with 'airy-fairy' statements and neither side knows what's going to happen.

"The big problem for me is the NHS. I use several areas in England for treatment - London and Preston.

"If Scotland becomes independent then that link might not be available to me and some people, like myself, might have to move to England.''

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