Rugby legend Doddie Weir in Blue Badges for MND patients call

Rugby legend Doddie Weir has called for Scots with motor neurone disease to be given disabled parking badges to help them live a “dignified and as full a life as possible”.

Doddie Weir and MSP Rachael Hamilton are leading campaign. Picture: contributed
Doddie Weir and MSP Rachael Hamilton are leading campaign. Picture: contributed

Weir, who went public with his condtion two years ago, wants the Scottish Government to allow automatic access to the Blue Badge Scheme for people living with the condition.

Campaigners say a “lengthy process” of a desk assessment is currently required before they get a badge.

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Scotland’s blue badge scheme was extended in December 2017 to include carers and relatives of people facing the impact of conditions such as dementia, autism and Down’s syndrome.

But Weir said: “Motor neurone disease is unpredictable. It can be fiercely aggressive and a third of those who receive this terrible diagnosis die within a year, 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.

“Fortunately there are not too many of us in this exclusive club but I believe everyone who is diagnosed with motor neurone disease should automatically be entitled to a blue badge, this will enable families to live a dignified and as full a life as possible while coping with this terrible disease.”

It is estimated that around 230,000 people in Scotland hold a blue badge, allowing them to park on roads without charge and normally without time limit. Around 75 per cent of blue badge holders say they would go out less often if they didn’t have one.

Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton hopes Mr Weir’s support will help bring about change.

She said: “I want people living with MND to receive an automatic entitlement to a blue badge without having to go through a desk based assessment,” she said.

“Constituents first got in contact with me several months ago, making me aware of the difficulties of obtaining a Blue Badge.

“Given the nature of MND, people can suddenly require extra support at short notice, and the extension of the Blue Badge scheme would be one way in which a simple change could make a huge impact.”

A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland insisted its criteria has never focusseed on conditions, but the impact on peoples’ mobility.

“We have extended the Blue Badge scheme to include hidden disabilities,” she added.

“Assessment means the right support can be provided at the right time and we have a new online application form, providing an easier way to apply. In shaping Blue Badge policy, we are actively listening to the views of disabled people, in line with the vision we set in our Accessible Travel Framework that there should be ‘nothing about us without us’.”