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Disabled voters 'feel underestimated' by Yes and No campaigns

Disability campaigners claim that both campaigns in the Scottish referendum have underestimated the significance of their vote.

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Disability campaigners have said both sides of the referendum campaign have underestimated the significance of their vote.

About 400 disabled people attended an event in Glasgow to question representatives from Better Together and Yes Scotland, including Green MSP Patrick Harvie, actress Libby McArthur, Scottish Labour's shadow health secretary Jackie Baillie and MP Anne McGuire.

The main topics of discussion were the future of the NHS and potential welfare changes but issues such as Trident, international relations and currency were also discussed.

Many of those in attendance have already voted via postal ballot but others believe both campaigns could be doing more to convince them.

Yes Scotland launched their group Disabled People for Yes earlier this month aimed at answering any queries from voters about independence, whilst former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that the “UK welfare state offers better protection for pensioners, disabled and the unemployed" in a speech for the No campaign last week.

Glasgow Disability Alliance chief executive Tressa Burke said: "Both sides have mentioned disabled people at different points but I don't think there's a grasp of how much power and vote disabled people have.

"There's over one million disabled people in Scotland and over two million people have long-term conditions. I think more should have been done to play to that audience.

"There has been some attempts by both campaigns to speak to disabled organisations but I think there can always be more.

"More importantly, in some ways for us, it's not what happens on September 18 but what happens on the 19th."

Audience member Jacqueline Kelly will be voting Yes in the referendum and the key issues for her have been the NHS, social justice and equality.

She said: "The NHS is important, especially to a room full of people with disabilities and long-term conditions because we rely on the NHS. I would be dead if it wasn't for the NHS.

"My question was about equality and fairness, but they're all wrapped up into one another to be frank."

Ms Kelly has been to a number of meetings and feels more could have been done to properly engage with the disabled community during the campaign.

She said: "Yes, we're disabled but first and foremost we are people, so we shouldn't be excluded into special events just for us," she said.

"We should be able to attend regular meetings of any group. Yes, we have our own specific needs but we have needs to interact with other people too.

"Did we need more particularly for the disabled community? Perhaps, but what we should remember is that we are just people, bottom line."

Sheila Cameron has already used her postal ballot to register her No vote but feels the campaigns have spent too much time arguing with each other.

She said: "I think they're arguing too much and don't have enough facts and figures behind their statements.

"They're coming out with 'airy-fairy' statements and neither side knows what's going to happen.

She added: "The big problem for me is the NHS. I use several areas in England for treatment - London and Preston.

"If Scotland becomes independent then that link might not be available to me and some people, like myself, might have to move to England."

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