The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 requires those who provide services to the public to make reasonable adjustments to the physical features of premises in order to allow access for disabled people. Scottish building standards include provisions to make new or renovated buildings accessible, and these will be strengthened further from May 2007.
I am sure that the First Minister is aware of the recent Sunday Mail investigation into disabled people's access to existing buildings. With the help of a team of wheelchair users, the Sunday Mail found that, in parts of Scotland, people cannot get into shops, post offices, railway stations, housing offices, libraries and town halls. In some cases, astonishingly, people cannot get into hospitals. However, in other parts of Scotland there is excellent access to many public facilities, including the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, which was singled out for special mention.
Will the First Minister do what he can to encourage the best possible standards of access and ensure that they are the norm in buildings so that disabled people can truly access all areas?
There are two issues here. The first is personal behaviour, about which I will say two things. First, people who do not have disabled badges should not use disabled parking spaces and they are wrong to do so. I hope that people will take more personal responsibility for that choice throughout Scotland. Secondly, one of the reasons that some people give for doing that is their perception that the badges are misused, so those who have badges should ensure that they are used properly and consistently. In that way, we will have buy-in from all sections of the community to what is an important procedure and policy.
The second issue is the consistency of the application of byelaws and other measures throughout the country. Although we do not have a position yet on Jackie Baillie's proposed bill, I welcome the fact that she has initiated the debate. There is a debate to be had, but we need to think carefully about what the conclusions should be.