The campaign for fair representation is not new, the Women 5050 campaign stands on the shoulders of phenomenal women who have been fighting for a 50/50 parliament since the very idea of a devolved Scottish Parliament.
16 years after these calls, and we are still far away from equal representation. In fact, the number of women in the Scottish Parliament has fallen from the dizzy heights of 40% to 35%. When women make up the majority of the population, can we really be ok with them still being underrepresented?
Women 5050 was launched in September 2014, by prominent political names; Kezia Dugdale MSP and Alison Johnston MSP. It has since gained the support of over a third of the members of parliament, including the backing of First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. The time is now for women to claim their equal place in Scotland’s public life.
The reality is, there are women with the talent and the ambition to be political leaders right now, but are faced with barriers in their way; barriers in the attitudes we, as a society have for women’s leadership, and barriers in how we do our politics. The Women 5050 campaign is lobbying for candidate quotas in the Scottish Parliament and local council elections. This would mean political parties have to work harder to eradicate gender inequality and support women to be 50% of their list of candidates on the ballot paper. The steps to equality quality really can be that easy.
Quotas in politics are not new. In fact, over 50 of the national parliaments across the world, including eight EU member states, operate some form of quota system to overcome the institutionalised inequality women face. Sweden has had quotas in their politics since the 1970’s. We are falling behind.
The campaign for fair representation may come a step closer to winning with a recent amendment to the Scotland Bill. Ian Murray MP for Edinburgh South has submitted an amendment for “gender balance” in the Scottish Parliament. This would mean the debate on quotas and how they are implemented would become a fully devolved issue and would give Scotland the ability to yet again, lead the way.
We have a woman First Minister and a 5050 cabinet, let’s cement these accomplishments by making the benches across the chamber reflect the society they are meant to represent.
The issue of tackling political injustice for women does not lie with one party, it is above partisan politics. In the same way Women 5050 is proud to be cross party, I hope we see cross party agreement on this amendment and rightfully devolve the debate to Scotland.
This article first appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News on Thursday 2nd of July 2015