AS a disabled person, I can’t find anything in the appointment of Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister worthy of celebration. Yes, it’s good to have someone from another under-represented in the role and it’s noteworthy that he is the first UK PM of colour, the first person of Asian descent and the first Hindu to hold this office.

However, it is all meaningless if he does nothing to address the abhorrent UK immigration policy, which sees a six-year-old refugee and their mother sleeping on the streets of Glasgow at the end of October 2022, because to register their asylum claim in the quickest way they have to make their own way from Glasgow to Croydon without any assistance.

If they don’t go in person to Croydon, the telephone process will take 10-14 days for their claim just to be registered, before even being processed. Meanwhile, they aren’t entitled to help with accommodation.

Nor is there reason to celebrate when disabled people last winter – when Sunak was Chancellor – were living in a single room, wearing outdoor clothing and wrapped up in a duvet to try to keep warm because they couldn’t afford the heating oil to heat their home, while skipping meals because they couldn’t afford food.

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That was last winter. Now inflation has risen to double figures, but Sunak chose to increase benefits by only 3.1%, despite the OBR predicting inflation would rise to 6.2% by the following February. For some disabled people, the combined cost of their Council Tax and electricity bills alone takes up almost 40% of their monthly income. If they live in rural Scotland, I shudder to think about their situation.

Does anyone really think that Rich Rishi has the first inkling of the plight of these people? Does he care? Tories might point to the one off cost-of-living payments which he delivered this year, and while this was welcome extra money, it didn’t make up for the cut in Universal Credit which Sunak made against the advice of the OBR, IPPR, financial commentators and other experts.

Scotland is a rich country, we are energy rich and yet with the “broad shoulders of the UK, pooling and sharing of resources” (remember that phrase?) we have an energy crisis or rather a greed crisis that is condemning refugees, the disabled, the elderly, the poor and our most vulnerable people to a winter of abject poverty, misery and, in some cases, there will, yet again, be preventable loss of life. This is a fact – not hyperbole – but the cold hard facts of Scotland in the Union.

The simple, inescapable fact is that Westminster is a broken system and democratically we’re powerless within its system. The City of London, investment bankers and people who influence the Westminster administrations don’t care about Scotland or our people – this is why Scotland NEEDS our independence.

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When making these arguments, I often get the response “this is just about disabled people, it’s nothing to do with me”. Well it’s not. As I said, it’s also about refugees, the elderly, the working poor, those in rural communities, and many others under the policies of the Tories.

Disabled people make up one-fifth of the population of Scotland (that is one million Scots), and one inescapable fact is that everyone is only an accident or an illness away from joining their ranks.

Dignity, fairness, and respect for our disabled community today may well be a fair deal for you or a loved one in the future, and that will not come about for Scotland as part of the Union. Supporting independence is our only way out of this mess and to create a fairer, greener, and better country for everyone who calls Scotland home.

Andy Stuart SNP

Disabled Members Convener