2 Jul 2024

‘My constituent was asked if their son still had autism by DWP’, says SNP’s social justice spokesman

Social Affairs Editor and Presenter

We spoke to David Linden, who is the SNP’s social justice spokesman, and began by asking him, how many of his party’s candidates have a disability.


David Linden: I think off the top of my head it’s probably about four or five. You’ll be aware that the SNP was one of the main parties in Westminster to get proxy voting in place because a number of MPs have physical disabilities. Many of them, of course, are seeking re-election. The absolute trailblazer for that was Amy Callaghan, whose own health journey has been widely documented. So we are certainly aware of quite a number of candidates and we are giving them the support that they require.

Jackie Long: Given that, it’s interesting that in the SNP manifesto, it only has one sentence specifically on disabled people. If that’s a sign of intent or commitment, it doesn’t show much of either does it?

David Linden: I think what you’ve got to do is look at the track record of the SNP. For example, when I’ve been on the Work and Pensions Select Committee for the SNP all throughout the pandemic, arguing about the fact that there are two million people on legacy benefit claims, that those claimants who’ve got a disability, were cruelly overlooked by the UK government when it came to the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift, it was the SNP that was the vanguard leading the cause for that.

Similarly, we’ve been calling for an end to the unfair assessment process. I’ll give you just one example. When I became an MP, I remember having one constituent who was asked if their son still had autism. That gives you an idea of the level of understanding that exists in the Department of Work and Pensions. I believe there’s got to be a fundamental root and branch review of the UK government’s approach to disabled people, because we’ve seen it not once, not twice, but many times.

Jackie Long: A fundamental root and branch review might necessitate more than one phrase, specifically on disabled people, in your manifesto. Your own disability spokesperson, Marion Fellows, was asked whether that one direct reference was enough to address all the complex problems that you mentioned some of them there, and she said it definitely isn’t. You don’t agree with her?

David Linden: No, I think absolutely there’s so much more that anybody who in the disability sector, who we’ve worked with, will know that the SNP has been a strong voice for those with disabilities. Manifestos, by their very nature, don’t touch every single area of policy. If you want to get into chatting about the £975 disability premium that disabled people face, I’m very happy to talk about that because we know, for example, that disabled people have got higher costs when it comes to running equipment that is supporting their lives. They’ve got higher energy costs, higher food costs because of a specialised diet. Higher transport costs as well. So these are all things that the SNP is interested in taking forward with the UK government, and that’s why people should vote SNP, to ensure there’s a strong voice to hold Sir Keir Starmer and his Labour government to account.

Jackie Long: You’re the social justice spokesperson and the SNP talk a lot about child poverty. The former prime minister, Gordon Brown, has said your record on child poverty ‘has just not been good enough, whatever the SNP has done, it’s clearly not enough.’

David Linden: Well, I think Gordon Brown should reflect on the fact that his party is more interested in lifting the bankers bonus cap, rather than the two child cap for working mothers. All the while, the SNP has lifted 90,000 children out of poverty, with its scheme-changing Scottish child payment. I’m not sure Gordon Brown remembers that, but I’m certainly happy to remind Channel 4 viewers.