The National:

I’m not broken; Westminster is.

It is exclusive. We all know this – you just need to look at the gender imbalance of MPs, with backslapping and guffawing because at the last election we returned the highest percentage of women MPs ever. A paltry 34%. We’ve become so accustomed to the exclusivity of Westminster that it has almost become normal.

But then sometimes the unfairness, the exclusivity of UK politics is rammed home. On Monday, the Israeli energy minister was unable to access COP26 in her wheelchair. The UK environment secretary, George Eustice, was quickly sent out to defend the lack of accessibility at the UK Government event. Israel “didn’t communicate particular access needs” for their minister, he told us.

I mean, why would an international event need to be wheelchair accessible?

Taking it further still, the Commons decided to exclude MPs from voting who cannot travel for any number of reasons. Quite simply, I was disenfranchised and was unable to vote against the UK Government’s Budget, but more importantly, the residents of East Dunbartonshire were disenfranchised.

Why? Because I had a stroke.

Despite finding it possible to have a proxy voting scheme in place for all MPs during the coronavirus lockdown, Westminster now maintains that it is not possible to have a proxy voting scheme in place for members with ill health. We are assured that a committee is looking into voting arrangements, and that is of course welcome, but it doesn’t change the fact that I was unable to participate in last night’s proceedings for the sole reason of ill health.

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That is exclusive. And it may in part explain why a mere five MPs are disabled, yet 19% of working-age adults live with a disability, a figure that rises to 44% of pension-age adults. If it was reflective of broader society, Westminster should have 136 disabled MPs.

But it’s not, and one clear reason for that is the exclusive, antiquated procedures of the place. It’s a parliament that can provide me with a place to hang my sword, but no provision to vote from home.

When Ian Blackford stood up in the House last night to ask on my behalf for a proxy voting scheme, he wasn’t asking for something revolutionary. There was no suggestion that Westminster should become an entirely virtual parliament. No-one is saying that any MP, on a whim, could choose not to attend and just vote from home.

Ian was asking for a simple system to be put in place for MPs who cannot attend for legitimate health reasons. A system that would make Westminster procedures much more inclusive.

On Monday I pleaded with the House of Commons Procedure Committee to put in place a proxy system. I reiterate that call today. Please don't disenfranchise my constituents.

I’m not broken; Westminster is.