Nicola Sturgeon has opened a major international conference on disability with a vow to “redouble efforts to tackle inequality head-on”.
The First Minister and the Princess Royal attended the Rehabilitation International Congress in Edinburgh, an event which is held every four years to bring together government, business, academics and charity groups.
Organised by the Shaw Trust, about 1,000 delegates from 60 countries are expected to attend the three-day event at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, with a focus on improving employment opportunities for disabled people.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I am delighted that Scotland was selected as the host country for this world congress. As we have already heard, the last time this world congress was held in the UK was in 1957.
“In the nearly 60 years since that first UK-based congress, the way that we think about disabled people and disability has changed a great deal. And changed very much for the better.”
She added: “But, as you all know, there is much more work to do.
“The economic upheaval of the last decade has exacerbated inequalities across the globe. And we have seen all too clearly what this rise in inequality can lead to. Greater alienation, exclusion and social instability.
“And disabled people have very often been those who have suffered the most.
“That’s why we need to redouble our efforts to tackle inequality head-on, and ensure everyone has the chance to realise his or her full potential.
“The UN Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted in 2015 represent a clear call to action on this front, as they specifically focus on reducing inequalities.
“I’m very proud that Scotland was one of the first countries to sign up to these Global Goals, as it indicates our strong commitment to a more equal and inclusive world.
“And the key themes that you will focus on over the next three days – employment, education and skills; independent living; and international development and partnerships – identify very clearly where we all need to focus our efforts.
“In Scotland… we have pledged to use the Scottish Parliament’s new powers to create a dedicated employability service for disabled people. We have safeguarded the rights of our most severely disabled people by establishing the Scottish Independent Living Fund.
“This is hugely important because disabled people are not a homogeneous group. They are individuals, and as such have individual circumstances, needs and aspirations – which can change over time.”