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MEP visits Forfar as EU guide dog research raises questions

Scottish Conservative MEP Ian Duncan, and Alex Johnstone MSP, today visited the Guide Dogs Scotland training centre in Forfar, to highlight a recent study into access rights for guide dog users across the EU.

The study, commissioned by Dr Duncan, found a wide variation in the access rights of guide dog users across the EU, depending on which member state they reside in.
With over 2.5 million blind people living in the EU, a total of eight member states lack sufficient legislation regarding the access rights of guide dogs, with some having no laws on the issue at all. The Equality Act 2010 has helped ensure guide dog users in UK have some of the best legal protections across Europe, but it is clear there is still more to do.
Dr Duncan published the findings during a visit to the Guide Dogs Scotland training centre in Forfar today.Commenting Ian Duncan said:
"I commissioned this research in order to try to build an accurate picture of the experiences of guide dog users across the EU. I am pleased that the UK emerges from this study well, but it is clear that more can be done to improve access for guide dog users. In particular, the variation in levels of support for our blind citizens across the European Union is truly shocking and must be dealt with."
“It was great to be able to witness first hand the hard work that goes into the training of each and every guide dog in Scotland. The centre in Forfar is a real asset to the area, but also makes an immeasurable contribution to the lives of blind and partially sighted people across the country.”
"I take some comfort from the findings that the UK is ahead of the curve when it comes to access rights for blind citizens. We obviously have more to do, but we are well ahead of others and from our position of relative strength, we should be putting pressure on the others to get to the same level. It is only fair and right."
Alex Johnstone MSP said:
“The Guide Dogs Centre in Forfar is well known in the local community, but it was great to experience a small part of what is involved in training a guide dog. Attempting the obstacle course today assisted by one of the dogs in training has given me a new appreciation of the challenges faced by blind and partially sighted people on a daily basis, and the incredible aid that a guide dog can be.
“I hope this research will encourage other countries to up their game when it comes to access rights, and ensure the UK continues to strive to make life easier for guide dog users.”
Jane Horsburgh, Policy Manager of Guide Dogs Scotland said:
“Guide dog owners, like all assistance dog owners, rely on their dogs to feel confident and supported. Being turned away by a business leaves people feeling angry, upset and embarrassed. It can rob people of their independence and can leave them unable to do the everyday activities such as travel by taxi, go to the local shops, or eat out with their friends or family.”
“It is encouraging to see from the report that the UK is ahead of the curve in legal terms. Unfortunately, however, despite legal protection, guide dog and other assistance dog owners still experience this form of discrimination every day across Scotland and the rest of the UK and this needs to change.”
Some of the findings of the research include:
- France has had a long-standing and properly enforced policy toward guide dog users since the 1980s; users, by law, have free and uninterrupted access to all places and facilities open to the general public.
- Similarly, guide dog users in the UK find themselves protected by the 2010 Equality Act which requires 'reasonable adjustment' on the part of private and public buildings to accommodate disabled persons. Of course, there is still progress to be made- too many buildings and public areas remain difficult or even impossible to access by the visually impaired, but the report finds that Britain is on the right track.
However, the report found that the Netherlands has only just started preparing such legislation, a step that Cyprus has yet to even take. Meanwhile, blind people in Bulgaria are the most disadvantaged in Europe with only 45 operationally trained guide dogs (among a population of 7.2 million).  It has been estimated that a staggering 18,000 persons potentially need guide dogs and only as of 2013 can their users be accompanied by their dogs in banks, and only then following a European Commission ruling.

Good news for Scotland’s economy despite SNP ‘spreading doom’ on Brexit

Good news for Scotland’s economy despite SNP ‘spreading doom’ on Brexit

Unemployment has fallen substantially both in Scotland and the UK, despite the SNP “spreading doom” on the impact of Brexit.

New figures have revealed the number of people looking for a job north of the border has fallen by 14,000, while wages are also on the rise.

It means the unemployment rate fell to just 3.9 per cent for the period between June and August this year.

The UK-wide unemployment rate also fell considerably, and now stands at only four per cent.

The Office for National Statistics said pay rose by 3.1 per cent in the last quarter, outstripping the inflation level of 2.5 per cent.

The improved position comes despite the SNP relentlessly warning about the consequences of leaving the European Union.

Only yesterday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon spoke in London to speculate about the impact, and reiterated her desire to reverse the June 2016 vote.

However, the Scottish Conservatives have now told the SNP government to stop the scare-mongering, and start examining the opportunities which will be presented once the Brexit process is complete.


Scottish Conservative shadow economy secretary Dean Lockhart said:

“For all the Brexit-related scaremongering from the SNP, it appears the economy both in Scotland and the rest of the UK is performing well.

“This is in the face of an SNP government which is refusing to examine the opportunities of Brexit, and using it only to spread doom and rabble-rouse for independence.

“These figures do fluctuate, but this encouraging news at least suggests there could well be a good future for Scotland’s economy once we’ve left the European Union.”




Notes to editors:


The statistics were released this morning:

Sturgeon’s Brexit intervention all about independence

Sturgeon’s Brexit intervention all about independence

Nicola Sturgeon’s latest intervention on Brexit is motivated solely by the break-up of Britain, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

Speaking in London today, the First Minister reiterated her desire for the June 2016 vote to leave the European Union to be ignored, or at least for the UK to remain in the single market and customs union.

She also claimed any concession made to Northern Ireland should apply to Scotland.

However, Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins said the SNP leader’s only reason for intervening was to push the case for another referendum on Scottish independence.

He pointed out there was nothing new in today’s speech, or indeed the accompanying paper being published by the SNP government.

Ms Sturgeon’s speech came on the same day as a new campaign for Scottish independence was launched.


Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins said:

“There was absolutely nothing new in this speech from Nicola Sturgeon.

“As ever, she is not intervening for the sake of a good Brexit deal, or for the good of the Northern Ireland border issue.

“She made this speech in the hope of drumming up the prospects for Scottish independence.

“From the second the Brexit vote became clear, that has been the SNP government’s only motivation on this issue.

“If the SNP doesn’t back a deal, it is automatically supporting a no-deal scenario – something the nationalists have admitted would be bad for Scotland.

“And, of course, they don’t care if outcomes are bad for Scotland, so long as they’re good for the prospects of another independence referendum.

“This was just the latest opportunistic contribution from Nicola Sturgeon, whose behaviour on the Brexit process has been selfish and utterly shameless.”


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