Michael McEwan: It's your parliament and your voice, so make it heard

CommonSpace columnist Michael McEwan, who covers developments around disability, charts a couple of positive moves in the Scottish Parliament and beyond

WHEN I watch things about news and politics on TV I always wonder what's going on behind the scenes, and I recently got an opportunity to find out at the Scottish Parliament.

I attended an event in my local area recently called Your Parliament, Your Voice, held by a delegates from the Scottish Parliament who are running a series of events around Scotland.

From a young age I've been interested in politics, and back in 2014 after disappointment in the result of the Scottish independence referendum, my political awareness has strengthened.

In October 2016 the Independent Commission on Parliamentary Reform was established by the presiding officer to look at how the Scottish Parliament could better engage with the people of Scotland, and how it could be improved to deliver better scrutiny.

The laws passed by the government and the policy considered at Holyrood directly affects many aspects of our daily lives, so it's important the public have a clear say in how those laws and policies will work.

Having a strong, effective parliament is in all our interests. The laws passed by the government and the policy considered at Holyrood directly affects many aspects of our daily lives, so it's important the public have a clear say in how those laws and policies will work.

That is why an important part of the work of the commission is to enable the Scots public to give their views.

Your Parliament, Your Voice was a fantastic opportunity for all who attended to learn about the commission on parliamentary reform, and to feed back regarding how the Scottish Parliament can:

- Engage more with the public

- Make clear to people what its role is

- Be confident it has the right checks and balances in place so it can work effectively

In the UK a number of shopping centres have already introduced a quiet hour – which was devised for people with autism who don't like a lot of noise –  so it's good for The Avenue also to support us.

It was a well presented event, and I think those who attended found it interesting. There were around 30 people from all kinds of backgrounds and it lasted for around two hours. It's worthwhile that they are doing this type of campaign, talking to people from different backgrounds, and we should know later this year what changes may be implemented at Holyrood.

I'd also like to update on recent events at East Renfrewshire Disability Action (ERDA), of which I am the chairperson. We work to raise awareness of disability issues. In March it was World Autism Week, and we held an information stand at The Avenue shopping centre in Newton Mearns, in partnership with The National Autistic Society. It was well visited and I have to thank The Avenue for its support.

Last year I contacted the shopping centre to ask if they could put on a 'quiet hour', which was devised for people with autism who don't like a lot of noise. During the designated hour there is no music in the centre or the shops. So now, every day between 9am-10am, over 80 per of the retailers within the centre switch off their in-store music. 

Children and adults with autism can sometimes experience sensory meltdown, which is similar to to feeling overwhelmed when there is too much sensory information to process. 

In the UK a number of shopping centres have already introduced a quiet hour, so it's good for The Avenue also to support us. I do hope that it continues, and that we can encourage others to do the same.

Picture courtesy of Hamish Irvine

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