Rachael Hamilton is Conservative MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire

Success for MND Blue Badge Campaign

Last week in the Scottish Parliament, it was very rewarding to see the Scottish Government finally decide to revise the Blue Badge eligibility criteria for people with MND.

Several months ago, I joined forces with Doddie Weir OBE to start a campaign, which called on the Scottish Government to change the criteria for Blue Badges to ensure that people living with MND can gain automatic access.

The campaign came about because of a constituent writing to me about their frustrations with the current system, and how the lengthy process of applying for a Blue Badge is incompatible.

Currently there is no cure or effective treatment for MND, and the average life expectancy after diagnosis is sadly 18 months. Given the nature of MND and the timeframe in which someone can become immobile, it is important that life is made as easy as possible for them.

People are only eligible if they are a recipient of the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or those who score eight or more on the moving around descriptor for the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Back in 2017, Scotland’s blue badge scheme was extended to include carers and relatives of people with conditions such as dementia, autism and Down’s Syndrome, but not for MND.

Waiting times and application difficulties can all act as barriers to people with MND obtaining a Blue Badge under the current circumstances. Waiting times associated with the processing of Blue Badge applications varies and currently it takes on average around 12 weeks. Feedback from MND Scotland’s advisers has highlighted that it can take up to two months.

During the debate, it was very encouraging to hear the Minister commit to ‘revise and refresh’ the current code of practice in partnership with key organisations, such as MND Scotland. This will allow for a prescription type of approach, which will mean an MND care team can automatically grant a Blue Badge.

This was a victory for common sense and it will make a difference to those living with MND. At the heart of it all was allowing people with MND to keep their independence and dignity. The cost of making this change is minimal and the right thing to do.

The positivity and tenacity that Doddie Weir has displayed throughout the years, in exceptionally difficult circumstances, is a formidable example to us all.

I want to thank him for his unwavering support, and thank MND Scotland, my fellow parliamentary colleagues and my constituents for helping us achieve the aim of the campaign.