June has been another busy month for us new Parliamentarians. Since making my Maiden Speech on the 2nd, I have been cutting my teeth in debates and, along with my SNP colleagues, exposing the UK Government’s failure to fulfil their promise of extensive new powers for the Scottish Parliament.
Outwith the Chamber, I have met with different organisations and charities, such as Barnardo’s, Enable and Carers UK, to understand how, as a parliamentarian, I can support them, locally as well as nationally.
Many of us met with constituents and Scottish charities at the Climate Chaos Mass Lobby on Wednesday to get the UK Government to commit to real change. As the SCIAF Ambassador for Galloway since 2006, I have spoken about Climate Justice (or indeed injustice) on many occasions. I joined Patrick Grady to represent the SNP in a Westminster Hall debate on the Sustainable Development Goals which will also be decided later this year.
One of the charities I met with was Guide Dogs for the Blind, who are calling for the UK Government to bring forward legislation to prohibit parking on pavements in any area unless expressly permitted. A similar provision currently operates in Greater London and there is also a Members Bill which aims to ‘reclaim pavements for pedestrians’ going through the Scottish Parliament, but Guide Dogs would like to see the principle rolled out nationwide.
Cars parked on pavements can be a significant risk to blind and partially sighted people by obstructing their path and, potentially, causing injury. What I had not realised, is that guide dogs are trained to avoid narrow spaces and may therefore lead their owner out into the road if the pavement is blocked.
Of course, pavement parking also poses problems for other pedestrians, including the elderly, the disabled, and people with wheelchairs or pushchairs, so it is an issue that affects a lot of people.
Pavement parking is done by many of us out of thoughtlessness (54% of drivers in YouGov survey); we think about ease for other cars rather than pedestrians.
While legislation will take time, we could already do something about this through raising awareness. I plan to submit an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons to gather cross-party support for change and undertake a blindfold walk with a guide dog later in the summer to understand a little of what is faced by blind people every day.
So, if about to park on the pavement, let’s just think of those who have to navigate the obstruction we are creating – Pavements are for People!