Remploy (United Kingdom Government Response)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd March 2012.

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Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

When I read in the Business Bulletin that we would be debating this issue today, I wondered whether the SNP Government had run out of ideas for issues to debate that lie within its control, given that this is the second debate in two days on a matter that is reserved to the Westminster Government. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the tone of the debate, at least during the early part. In particular, I welcomed the tone of the ministerial contribution. Mr Ewing was, as ever, extremely reasonable in setting out his arguments, and that was reflected by the other opening speakers.

Even Helen Eadie, who never misses an opportunity when she gets one to bash the wicked Tories, was extremely reasonable. I pay tribute to the sincere and deep interest that Helen Eadie has taken in the plight of the Remploy factories over many years. That is well respected across the chamber.

It is a pity that that consensual and positive tone was not reflected in some of the later speeches, which I will come to shortly. I noticed that the Scottish Government, despite all its complaints about what is being done by the Westminster Government, made no proposal to step in and make up the shortfall in funding.

As the minister said, and Mary Scanlon reflected, the background to the debate is the Sayce review. Liz Sayce is a hugely well-respected campaigner for the rights of disabled people. I did not think that any member would stoop so low as to question her good faith, but of course I was disappointed because, right on cue, along came Mr Brodie. It is deeply disappointing that people attack Liz Sayce’s recommendations, because they have been strongly supported by the responses to the UK Government’s consultation and by leading disability organisations across the country.

In my intervention on Mr Ewing, I referred to the article in The Guardian of a few weeks ago that quoted the organisations that are in support. I note that Third Force News, which came out this week, referred to a number of organisations such as the Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland being supportive of the reforms. It also quoted, as did Mary Scanlon, Chris Price from the Glasgow Centre for Independent Living, saying that

“the decision to close Remploy was uncomfortable but the right one.”

He said:

“It is uncomfortable but it is the right thing to do. If it is the right message, we should not be shy about saying it, just because it upsets some people.”

I appreciate that some members will disagree with those comments, but they are the comments of leading disability organisations and we should be prepared to listen to their views, even if we disagree with the majority view that has been expressed.