A CHARITY has asked all three SNP leadership candidates to pledge their commitment to delivering an autism commissioner.

A letter from the National Autistic Society Scotland has been sent to Humza Yousaf, Ash Regan and Kate Forbes, setting out how there is a gap between “the support people have a right to and the support they receive”.

The SNP committed in its 2021 manifesto to the introduction of the Learning Disability, Autism and Neurodiversity Bill which would include a commissioner to protect and promote the rights of these communities.

The charity is now keen to ensure that whoever becomes the next first minister, this commitment continues.

The bill is yet to be launched with the consultation not set to begin until the second half of this year – something charities have described as “disappointing”.

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The letter from National Autistic Society director Rob Holland says: “Clearly, there is a gap between the support that people have a right to and the support they receive.

“The commissioner should work to close that gap by holding services and policymakers to account for delivering better outcomes for autistic people.

“The election of a new SNP leader and consequently a new first minister for Scotland provides the Scottish Government with opportunities to reinvigorate its efforts on this bill and to reassure autistic people that it is a priority.

The National: Rob Holland Rob Holland (Image: National Autistic Society)

“If you are elected, we ask that you re-commit to introducing the bill by the end of this session of parliament and ensure the bill includes clear provisions for establishing a commissioner.”

Regan has already confirmed her commitment to establishing a commissioner, with Yousaf and Forbes yet to reply.

If a commissioner is established it would be a “world first”, the letter states.

A report produced by the National Autistic Society Scotland and Scottish Autism in January showed how 96% of 1215 people surveyed supported creating an independent commissioner who could hold local and central government to account, promote good practice and ensure autistic people have a “powerful ally” embedded in law they can turn to.

Meanwhile, the report proved autistic people, family carers and professionals from across Scotland feel there is a dire need for change in almost every aspect of society from mental health support to education, social care and employment.

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Holland added: “We were delighted that the SNP committed to a commissioner for autistic people and people with a learning disability in its 2021 manifesto. It would be the first of its kind in the world, ensuring that Scotland is leading the way in protecting and promoting the rights of autistic and learning-disabled people.

“The election of a new SNP leader provides an important opportunity for this Scottish Government to reaffirm its promise to autistic people and prioritise this work because the longer autistic people wait for a commissioner, the longer diagnosis waiting lists grow, the longer people go without the care and support they need, the longer people are stuck in hospital, and the longer children and young people go without an education.”