On Wednesday 24th May, a question to the Scottish Government by SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, Ruth Maguire, highlighted that Scotland’s Access to Elected Office Fund supported 39 candidates in the recent local government elections, 15 of whom succeeded in being elected.

The Access to Elected Office Fund was created last year and is funded by the Scottish Government and administered by Inclusion Scotland. The fund offers financial support for disabled candidates to reduce or eliminate disadvantage during the selection process and election campaign due to impairment-related difficulties or exclusion. The 39 candidates supported covered seven political parties plus independents.

Ruth also used the Portfolio Questions session to call on the UK Government to re-open the equivalent UK fund – pointing out the clear success of the fund in ensuring that the local government elections were open to candidates from all parts of society,

In addition to the Access to Elected Office Fund, this week the Scottish Government announced the funding of a new joint project aimed at further increasing diversity within Scottish politics.

Equalities organisations Engender, Inclusion Scotland, BEMIS, the Council for Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations (CEMVO), Stonewall Scotland, the Equality Network, and the Women 5050 campaign will work to enable political parties to remove the barriers that stop underrepresented groups from taking part in politics as party members, activists, party staffers, and as elected representatives.

The organisations will produce an evidence-based online tool that will allow those involved in political parties, from national executives to local branches, to audit their practices and get help on how to remove barriers to getting involved.

Commenting, Ruth said:

“To ensure that our democratically-elected institutions are making decisions that truly reflect the reality of people’s lives, they must become much more representative of the communities they serve and Scottish society as a whole.

In particular, we must work to open up the political sphere to groups who have traditionally been excluded from it, such as disabled people, women, and ethnic minorities.

The Access to Elected Office Fund has been a great success, supporting 39 candidates in the recent elections and resulting in 15 new disabled councillors, who will bring important insight to their councils.

I welcome the news that this fund will now be supplemented by an online toolkit, funded by the Scottish Government and created by equalities organisations to further assist political parties in removing barriers so that more people can become involved.

The contrast with the regressive approach taken by the UK Government could not be more stark, which has closed its Access to Elected Office fund, which covered, amongst others, elections to the UK Parliament.

It is in the interests of us all that our institutions are truly representative, and I add my voice to the calls for the UK Government to reopen this fund immediately.”