Month: November 2016

Meet the Women #6 Jenny Gilruth MSP

In this week’s blog Jenny Gilruth, SNP MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes tells us about why she supports all women shortlists and Women 5050: Jenny Gilruth - SNP - Mid Scotland and Fife

‘My name’s Jenny and I’m an MSP because of positive discrimination.’

Quite the confession. But true, nonetheless. Would I have stood for election had it not been for an all women shortlist? Probably. Did it impact upon my decision to stand? Undoubtedly. Have I always believed in positive discrimination? Unreservedly so.

In 2005 when I was an idealistic University student, I decided to focus my dissertation on women in politics. I wrote about Blair and his ‘babes’.

Swept to power to the tune of D-Ream’s ‘things can only get better’ – only to become ‘window dressing.’ As part of my research I interviewed ten political women. It is a surreal memory sitting in my cold tenement flat on the landline to Edwina Currie, who told me a bizarre story about being sent a free pair of tights in the post following a radio interview. Another one of the women I interviewed was a Labour MP. She told me working class people didn’t care about the war in Iraq. And the one that made the difference – that was Tricia Marwick. Then a list MSP for Mid Fife and Scotland. Working class girl. State educated. No University degree. Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament. And the former constituency MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes – now the seat that I hold.

In 2005 the SNP didn’t have a great record when it came to female representation. Out of the 27 MSPs we had in Holyrood only 9 were women. Across Holyrood, however, female representation stood at 39%. The main reason being Labour’s use of positive discrimination. Indeed 56% of all Labour MSPs were women during session two.

But in Westminster female representation didn’t fare so well. Following the 2005 General Election only 1 in 5 of all MPs were women. In early 2006 the annual Sex and Power report found it could take another 200 years for women to reach political equality in UK Politics.

A week on from Donald Trump’s election in the U.S, how does the political landscape appear to Scotland’s girls today? We’ve a female First Minister. Both the main political opposition parties are led by women. Both of our Deputy Presiding Officers are women. And yet…the Green Party returned only 1 female MSP this year. The Liberals none. The Scottish Parliament Corporate Body is entirely comprised of male politicians. Today only 35% of MSPs are women. And whilst I am so proud that my party has now put in place measures to increase female representation, others decided lack of action has blocked progress. Of the 31 (mostly) shiny new Tory MSPs, only 19% are women. That is simply not good enough for the main party of opposition.

I’d like to believe in the idea of the American Dream. That if you work hard enough anyone – regardless of background – can achieve their goals. But the reality is that women face disadvantage which is entrenched by societal structures.

Last week Equal Pay Day marked the last day in the calendar women are paid for – relative to their male counterparts. 51 days before the end of the year.

To effect real change we need every party to adopt action on gender in politics. That’s why I support the Women 50 50 campaign – Scotland’s girls deserve better.


Girls Against – a rally call against sexual harassment

Anna Cowan, is 17 and lives in Glasgow.  She along with 3 of her friends, founded and run the campaign; Girls Against girlsagainst

I believe all powerful political movements and campaigns begin from a sense of anger or alienation; the feeling that you’re being overlooked and dismissed – perhaps due to ethnicity, sexuality, or age. For us, it was gender. One of my best friends was sexually assaulted at a gig last year. It was difficult to comprehend at first; it had happened to so many people we knew, despite sexual assault at gigs being an issue most rarely talked about or even acknowledged as an issue. However, we all shared a mutual feeling of pure, raw anger. How could this happen in the one place we felt safest, somewhere you were encouraged to be yourself, sharing this with others who felt the same as you? How could we allow this to be taken away from us?

The four of us – Hannah, Anni, Bea and I – knew we had to do something productive with our fury by taking control over something which took control of us far too often. So we started Girls Against – a campaign to raise awareness of and eventually eradicate sexual assault and harassment at gigs. A priority for us in starting the campaign was clarifying to others that sexual assault at gigs was a result of the rape culture prevalent in our society. The reason some men may commit an assault within the context of a gig is because of the power they hold both as a result of the patriarchy, and as a result of the excuse of being in a crowd. However, this is never a valid excuse, and we refuse to allow such dismissive attitudes to be accepted, as opposed to what they should be – condemned as a sexual crime. Indeed, we are a campaign for all genders – as intersectional feminists, this is a given. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the reason so many women fall victim to assault is because of these structural inequalities in society, which result in other issues such as the glass ceiling and misogyny. We must acknowledge the fact that it happens most often to women simply because they’re women, but exclusion will exist if we exist solely for one group, hence why we are here for all. But what do we actually do?

We offer support to victims, interview musicians and contact venues and security companies. After starting up in October, we have been featured in publications such as NME, The Independent and Vice, and have featured on BBC Newsbeat and BBC Breakfast. These have been key ways in shining a light on the issue, and have been incredible opportunities to do so. We also have over 80 Reps around the world who represent us in their local area, doing all they can to highlight sexual assault to venues and musicians so to help put an end to it. Put simply, we want gigs to be a safe and fun environment for all. We want them to remain what they’re there for – a great night out, where you can forget all issues ongoing out with the safety of the walls of the venue (or gates, if you’re at a festival!).

We won’t stop until we achieve this – the fight has only just begun!

You can get involved in Girls Against by following them on Twitter: