Borders rugby legend Doddie Weir has welcomed a vow by the Scottish Government to try to cut the red tape involved in handing out blue badges to motor neurone disease sufferers such as him.
The former Scotland international was at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh yesterday, September 26, to hear Paul Wheelhouse, minister for energy, connectivity and the islands, promise to redraft the rules for granting badges, making it automatic in some cases.
Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton secured that pledge after raising the issue at yesterday’s general question time on behalf of Weir, of Blainslie, and fellow MND sufferer Doreen Cheesmond, of Saughtree, near Bonchester Bridge.
Applications for blue badges, affording easier parking, take an average of 12 weeks at the moment, but Mrs Hamilton believes that is far too long as time can be short for sufferers of conditions such as MND, their average life expectancy after diagnosis being just 18 months.
Scottish National Party South Scotland list MSP Mr Wheelhouse agreed, telling her the current code of practice would be revised in the hope of allowing MND care teams to grant blue badges automatically.
He said: “I understand from health colleagues that, in Scotland, 160 people are diagnosed with MND each year and that, at any one time, there are just over 460 people living with the condition.
“We need to do all that we can to help people to manage this most cruel and debilitating of diseases.”
Weir, diagnosed with MND in December 2016, was delighted by that promise, saying: “Motor neurone disease is unpredictable.
“It can be fiercely aggressive, and a third of those who receive this terrible diagnosis die within a year, and more than a half within two years of receiving this devastating news.
“I have been determined to maintain a level of independence, and I want to be out and about, seeing my sons play rugby at weekends, helping with the work of My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and living my life to the full, but as time goes on, like fellow sufferers of MND, this becomes more difficult.
“Not everyone has six months to wait for the blue badge system to kick in.
“I believe everyone who is diagnosed with motor neurone disease should automatically be entitled to a blue badge.
“That would enable families to live a dignified and as full a life as possible while coping with this terrible disease.
“People diagnosed with MND fear the loss of their independence and their mobility, and providing them with a blue badge has the potential to help significantly by providing them with easier parking and greater accessibility.”
Mrs Hamilton added: “This is a victory for common sense first and foremost.
“People living with MND should have automatic access to a blue badge so that they can maintain their independence and dignity.
“I must congratulate Doddie Weir on his remarkable achievements to date. The positivity and tenacity that Doddie has displayed throughout the years, in exceptionally difficult circumstances, is a formidable example to us all.
“I welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to revise the code of practice, and I hope that we see the changes made in a timely manner so that no more people with MND have to go through the lengthy and stressful process of obtaining a blue badge.”