SNP – Where Do We Go From Here?

The elections are over, at least for now, and most of us are taking a well-earned breather. We won a clear majority in Scotland, with 35 MPs out of 59. It’s not the absolutely ludicrous result of 2015, but that was never going to be, could never be replicated. 95% of the MPs available was a fantastic, beautiful, one-off result. Of course, you’d never know that we won if you listen to reports, because we certainly did lose a lot of fantastic representatives in the rebalancing, and that so many seats went blue (especially in my area) is particularly heartbreaking. There is no shortage of opinions on what went right, what went wrong, who’s to blame, who should resign, but I want to look at the bigger picture for a moment.

While I completely understand the desire of the SNP to be all things to all people, and to ensure a plurality of voices within the party, and to avoid the poor coverage that radical politics inevitably brings, I think it’s time we make our stand.

There are a few key realisations we have to make our peace with:

1 – Nothing we do will ever bring with it the blessing of the media. We gave baby boxes to tiny babies and we were still vilified for it. We ensured that most people are protected from the Bedroom Tax, and there’s not a peep in the press. We are never going to get what we feel our policies deserve from the media, so we have to stop pursuing that.

2 – Because nothing we do will ever be covered positively, we have to make our case direct to the people by providing the best possible services to the majority of people, and ensuring they know where they came from. So many people I speak to have no idea that life here is so radically different from life in England, they don’t know why we’ve made the decisions we have, and they don’t understand the different levels of government. We have to go direct to the people by having public information days in small, local communities, where people can come and ask questions or where we go door to door to find out if people have any issues.

3 – In order to do point number two, we will have to learn point number one. We’ve got to make our peace with being a left-wing party with broadly socialist ideals, and commit to them. Land reform. Public health. Sustainable energy. Sustainable cities. Taxes to pay for them, because we can’t talk about great services without the money for them. I know we don’t have control over most of our taxes, and I know that the ones we do have are a trap, but we have to demonstrate the savings people will see because of the better services provided.

Yes, we’ll be called control freaks, but we already are. Yes, we’ll be accused of ‘Mugabe-style land grabs’, but we already are. Yes, we’ll be accused of radical politics, but we already are. Yes, we’ll be accused of stealing from ordinary people, but we already are.

We already are accused of all these things and more, so we may as well actually use them to do some good. Stop being hesitant, stop waiting for approval. We’ve done incredible work with tuition fees and prescriptions, with the Scottish Welfare Fund, the Scottish Independent Living Fund, the Scottish Social Security System which is being built to be a great thing for our society. We have done great work, but we’ve got so much more to do.

Point four – we will not always be in government. Our time here is limited. We must use it to implement as much good as we can, as quickly as we can, because our time will come to an end as the cycles of politics move on. If we wait for the public to get on board, we’ll be waiting forever. People gave us a mandate, let’s use it. Use it for all its worth, and do great things.

Yes, the press will come after us, because we threaten their bosses. Yes, the landowners will come after us, because we threaten their monopoly of our wild places. Yes, the people will come after us because they’re told we do terrible things like feed children and ensure access to healthcare and protect disabled people from Westminster.

Yes, they’ll come. And hopefully, we’ll have made enough of a difference that when they do, we’ll have made Scotland a better nation for the people who live here, and we’ll have honoured the voters who put their faith in us. History is littered with parties who compromised their values in order to maintain power – let’s choose a completely different direction. Let’s do what we need to do to make Scotland better, to put systems in place to help people which aren’t easily dismantled.

Let them come. We’ll have done our job.

For Medical Professionals (Not for patients)

MAJOR TRIGGER WARNING FOR SUICIDAL IDEATION, MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS. NOT INTENDED FOR PATIENTS. 

If you are treating a patient who is in crisis because of the election result, please do not dismiss their fears or reaction as a persecution complex or as over-dramatic. Disabled people affected by this are not sad because their candidate lost; they’re scared because the last decade has been increasingly harmful and the result means five more years of that. Please see this post for the research and other evidence of why disabled people are justified in feeling hopeless and afraid.

They are probably in immediate crisis if you are treating them, so please do not minimise or dismiss their fears. It might seem confusing or unimportant to people not affected, but these are valid concerns based on evidence and experience, and your patient had been hoping for an outcome which would have reversed many of the harmful aspects of the system they rely on.

However, as you’ll know, this is not the time to justify their suicidal thoughts or feelings. It’s important that they know that they’re not alone, that a lot of people are involved in fighting the system and that their death would not ‘send a message’. To be blunt, there have been hundreds of suicides, and none of them have resulted in a change in policy, so if the person expresses the idea that their death would ‘show them’, please gently explain that it wouldn’t. The best way to resist them is by surviving.

Thank you for your care and compassion in these times of crisis.

The Disability Democide: The Masterlist of Citations

Many people have asked me for an easy to reference list of the evidence for the democide of disabled people in the UK. I am going to update it over time, because it is too much for my mental health to do it all in one go, but here are the key studies and judgements, and where possible, the original research. If I have linked a news article, it’s because it has important clarifying information and quotes.

Deaths

Oxford University research linking 30,000 excess deaths in 2015 alone to cuts in Health and Social Care

“After ruling out data errors, cold weather and flu as main causes for the spike, the researchers found that NHS performance data revealed clear evidence of health system failures. Almost all targets were missed including ambulance call-out times and A&E waiting times, despite unexceptional A&E attendances compared to the same month in previous years. Staff absence rates rose and more posts remained empty as staff had not been appointed.

The researchers say that there are already worrying signs of an increase in mortality in 2016. Without urgent intervention, they say, there must be concern that this trend will continue.

Liverpool and Oxford University research on increased suicide and mental ill health. Although direct causal link couldn’t be established because of the nature of the data, experts agree that the conclusions are robust.

“In findings that could be hugely damaging for the Government’s welfare reform agenda, experts from the universities of Liverpool and Oxford said that up to 590 additional suicides, 279,000 cases of mental ill health and 725,000 more prescriptions for antidepressants between 2010 and 2013 were associated with the introduction of the more stringent Work Capability Assessment (WCA).”

Iain Duncan Smith’s tougher fit-to-work tests ‘coincide with 590 additional suicides’

Death Has Become Part of the Benefits System

Original research link: ‘First, do no harm’: are disability assessments associated with adverse trends in mental health? A longitudinal ecological study

Calum’s List – a list of confirmed suicides or deaths caused by exacerbation of condition due to stress, with links to reports from press and coroners. This small set were gathered by family contacting the site owners to ask for their loved ones to be included.

Cradle2Grave – list of some of the dead

Austerity and old-age mortality in England: a longitudinal cross-local area analysis, 2007–2013

Mental Health Damage and Risk of Self-Harm and Suicide

Napier and Heriot-Watt Universities research finding ‘almost universal’ mental health damage from the assessment process for ESA, often permanent, sometimes catastrophic: Mental Health and Unemployment in Scotland

Universities of Bristol, Manchester and Oxford: Understanding vulnerability to self-harm in times of economic hardship and austerity: a qualitative study

Inequalities in mental health and well-being in a time of austerity: Baseline findings from the Stockton-on-Tees cohort study

Suicides of benefit claimants reveal DWP flaws, says inquiry

Government admits failing to record actions after benefit suicide inquiries

Oxfordshire Mind has been awarded a six-figure sum from the Big Lottery fund to enable the service to expand to specifically cope with the fallout from the government’s welfare reform programme. The BBMH hotline has received 20% more calls over the past 18 months from people anxious about benefit changes.

Benefit cuts explicitly linked to mental health problems

 

UN Investigation and Evidence

Judgement document from the UN

BBC Article on the Judgement: UN: ‘Grave’ disability rights violations under UK reforms

DPAC’s summary of the key findings, comprehensive and vital

Reports from Disability Rights UK: Disabled people tell UN committee that UK is failing on international rights convention

 

Changes to PIP/ESA and the Processes of Assessment

Nearly half of PIP reviews saw award cut, according to unpublished DWP figures

Statements submitted to MPs have provided further evidence of widespread dishonesty among healthcare professionals who carry out disability benefit assessments, but their inquiry has had to be abandoned because of the prime minister’s decision to call a general election.

Election forces MPs to abandon PIP inquiry, but evidence backs up dishonesty claims

Appalled disabled activists have warned the British Medical Association (BMA) that it will be “complicit” in the future deaths of patients, after the doctors’ union refused to speak out about “very dangerous” new benefit rules affecting severely-ill claimants.

BMA ‘will be complicit in future deaths’, after silence on ‘fit note’ rules

Delays and disarray shatter lives of new disability claimants

Political Party Responses

‘Shabby’ Labour fails again on disability rights, after abstaining on PIP cuts vote