The National:

DURING an election that will determine the future of our nation, it is not an exaggeration to state that every single vote matters.

A cross in the box from a skipper in Fraserburgh carries the same weight as a young adult with Down’s syndrome in Dunoon – and it’s absolutely crucial that political parties reach out to everyone.

As Nicola Sturgeon unveiled the SNP’s manifesto last Thursday, inclusion was a key theme – exhibited not only within the prospectus for government itself, but also in its presentation.

The manifesto launch was presented alongside a BSL interpreter and fully subtitled for viewers. The publication has been made available in a number of accessible formats including Braille, large print, Easy Read and in audio – ensuring that every voter can make an informed choice.

READ MORE: SNP unveil manifesto to help people with disabilities across Scotland

Nevertheless, as the SNP’s Disabled Members’ Convener, I wanted my party to go even further and so I suggested that we produce a mini manifesto specifically for disabled people. Instead of raking through pages and pages of text in the main manifesto, disabled voters are able to review all of our relevant commitments in one simple document.

Disabled voters will see that, if re-elected, the SNP will strengthen our rights by incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into Scots law – the number one ask from Scotland’s leading disabled people’s organisations.

Over the next parliamentary term, a re-elected SNP Government will invest over £10 million to increase the number of Changing Places Toilets and £15 million in employability support for low-income and disabled parents.

Our manifesto pledges to bring forward a National Transitions to Adulthood Strategy and introduce a Learning Disability, Autism and Neurodiversity Commissioner to help ensure human rights are protected, promoted and that no one is left behind.

READ MORE: Shirley-Anne Somerville: How people have transformed our social security system

Scotland’s new social security system will deliver the Child Disability Payment later this year, to be followed by the Adult Disability Payment.

We will also provide additional support to Scotland’s carers by introducing an improved Carers Assistance payment to replace carers allowance which pays a further £10 per week to those caring for more than one disabled person.

In recognition of the extra burden the pandemic has placed on carers, the SNP will award a double payment of Carers Allowance Supplement this year, worth £460.

The SNP recognises that representation matters to disabled people. That’s why we will establish a scheme for disabled people that nurtures the leaders of tomorrow by supporting projects that increases representation on public boards as well as into elected office.

READ MORE: Benefit fraud is rare and DWP disability assessments cause real harm

Voters should be in no doubt that the SNP’s vision is for an independent Scotland with inclusion and equality at its heart.

A progressive and bold policy agenda, including the creation of a National Care Service and the introduction of a new Scottish Accessible Homes Standard, that maximises the limited powers under devolution, is what sets Scotland apart from cruel Westminster policies.

The SNP’s manifesto for disabled people is bursting with ideas. It’s a manifesto which recognises that independence puts Scotland’s recovery in Scotland’s hands, and will ensure that disabled people can fully participate in public life and enjoy the same kinds of opportunities and choices that so many people take for granted.

It's a manifesto which takes us towards the Scotland we want to be.