Transport minister Sarah Boyack has called for applications for members of the new Mobility and Accessibility Committee for Scotland (MACS) which will be launched next year.
Ms Boyack said:
'It's vital that we have a transport system in Scotland that is accessible to everybody and that must include disabled people. Initiatives like this one in Badenoch and Strathspey help to give disabled people the independence and freedom which other people might take for granted.
'Blind people already enjoy free rail, bus, ferry and underground travel throughout Scotland and the Scottish executive is committed to ensuring that everyone in society has access to an integrated, efficient and modern transport system in line with our aim to build a compassionate Scotland where everyone matters.
'I believe that the mobility and accessibility committee will make a real contribution to ensuring that our transport policies do not discriminate against people with disabilities by giving people an opportunity to give me their views on Scotland's transport system first hand.'
Earlier in the day the minister also visited Perth and Kinross Association of Voluntary Service where she saw the Perthshire Hopper minibus in action. Backed by£53,000 of Rural Community Transport grants, PKAVS have been able to buy the accessible 15-seater minibus which is available for use by people in rural Perthshire who might not otherwise have access to transport.
The Mobility and Accessibility Committee for Scotland will be made up of 10-15 people, at least half of whom will be disabled. Members will be unpaid but will receive travel and subsistence allowances.
Members are expected to be appointed later this year, prior to a formal launch early in 2002.
The Scottish executive last year commissioned research to obtain information on transport provision for disabled people in Scotland. One of the main recommendations was that a national group should be established, made up of people with disabilities, transport providers and policy makers to develop a strategy for accessible transport across Scotland.
A wide range of disability organisations is currently being consulted on the draft regulations which will establish MACS. The consultation period ends on 5 October 2001.
The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee currently advises the UK government on transport issues for the disabled. MACS will be a similar body to advise Scottish ministers.
The executive's Rural Community Transport Initiative has supported Badenoch and Strathspey Transport Company since 1999, providing funding to employ a co-ordinator. The new vehicle is the group's first wheelchair accessible vehicle.
Perth and Kinross Association of Voluntary Service has been supported by the Executive's Rural Community Transport Initiative since 1998/99. The Perthshire Hopper operates on a rotational basis in four areas of rural Perth and Kinross (Highland Perthshire, Strathmartine, Crieff/Auchterarder and Kinross) with trained drivers.