Press Release – The Campaign For A Fairer Parliament Carries On


Women 5050 disappointed in Westminster decision to reject devolution of political quotas

Last night MPs debated 2 amendments to the Scotland Bill which would have devolved the ability to introduce “gender balancing” or quotas to the Scottish Parliament. Both amendments fell.

Amendment 123, submitted by Ian Murray MP would have allowed the Scottish Parliament to fully debate the issue of the under-representation of women and devolved the power to implement legislative candidate quotas. Amendment 162 submitted by Angus Robertson MP would have allowed for quotas on public boards.

Talat Yaqoob, Chair of Women 5050 said:

“We’re disappointed that these amendments has been voted down. The inclusion of just a few sentences in the Scotland Bill could have changed Scotland’s political landscape for the better and could have been the first step to a more inclusive and representative Scottish Parliament. Tackling the inequality and discrimination women face is the job of our parliaments. Introducing quotas are a fair and effective way for us to address the political imbalance in our politics. Women in Scotland deserve better than a glass ceiling on their leadership ambitions.

These amendments may have fallen, but the campaign for fair representation has never been stronger, especially with four out of five party leaders in the Scottish Parliament, including the First Minister, backing the campaign.

We will continue to pursue every avenue to make a fairer parliament and fairer public life a reality for women in Scotland and we will succeed.”



Will MP’s hear our calls?

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

Press Release: Today’s Debate Could Change Scotland’s Politics For Women

Today’s debate could change Scotland’s politics for women

On Monday, MPs will be debating whether equality for women in the Scottish Parliament can become a reality.

The amendment to the Scotland Bill, submitted by Ian Murray MP, would devolve the ability to implement “gender balance” measures into the Scottish Parliament and in public bodies. This is the first ask of the Women 5050 campaign and would bring Scotland a significant step closer to a 50/50 parliament.

A spokeswoman from Women 5050 said:

“The ability to introduce quotas should have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament from day one. Today, we have the unusual set up of one parliament deciding the fate of whether women can have equal footing in another parliament. MPs have the chance to devolve this issue to Scotland, so we can debate it fully and legislate for fair representation. Women’s representation in Scotland has decreased since the set up of the Scottish Parliament, and is currently at 35%, it’s simply not good enough. Women 5050 has the backing of four out of five of the party leaders in Scotland including the First Minister, there is clear political will for this to be devolved to Scotland and that must be listened to.”

The full amendment is as follows:

Clause 32, page 34, line 13,

at end insert, “including a requirement for gender balance among the members of the Scottish Parliament and members of boards of Scottish public authorities.”

Member’s explanatory statement The Amendment would ensure continued progression towards achieving gender balance among members of the Scottish Parliament and on boards of Scottish public authorities

Women 5050 is a cross party campaign group and we are incredibly proud of the formidable women politicians we have on our steering group; Kezia Dugdale, Alison Johnstone and Christina McKelvie. Read why they are involved and why women’s fair representation means so much to them.

Kezia Dudgdale, MSP, Scottish Labour:@zx_235@zy_235

The case for having more women in the Scottish Parliament and in Scotland’s councils is simply – they make up over half of society, of course they should make up half of the decision makers in Scotland. Today we have women with the ambition, the talent and the passion to be leaders but are held back because leadership is not something we tell young women to pursue, because of the attitudes that women who attempt to be leaders have to face, because of an inaccessible politics that doesn’t look like them or speak to them.

I have witnessed phenomenal women campaigning on issues at the grassroots level, lobbying on behalf of others, speaking on stage and winning arguments, and yet when I ask them about being a leader, they dismiss the very idea often responding with “I don’t think that’s for me” or “it’s a boys club”. We can and must change this. Scotland’s political landscape is in a deficit without these women – opening the doors to their talent and experience is what the Women 5050 campaign is all about.

Progress has been made, in 1999 after calls for a 50/50 parliament from campaigners before us, the Scottish Parliament formed with 40% women MSPs, yet today we have 35%. Progress is not just slow, it seems it is going backwards. Our councils are worse, with only 24% of over 1200 Councillors across Scotland being women – we have far to go, and now is the time to take action and legislate for change. Quotas are a fair and progressive way to implement a level playing field for Scotland women.

I’m proud of the progress Scottish Labour has made. We were the first party to introduce all women shortlists over 20 years ago and today, we have the highest number of women MSPs, but I want my party, every party and the whole of Scotland to go further for equality.

Alison Johnstone, MSP, Scottish Greens:

Support for Women 5050 has grown in recent months and I’m sure it will continue to do so.  Political engagement in Scotland bloomed during the referendum and that heightened level of involvement has continued.

Many women, young and old, become engaged during that campaign, found their voices and contributed on both sides of the debate.  It’s essential that they are encouraged to continue.

There is more discussion now about the need for fair gender representation in politics, but there are still those who are convinced that our representatives are all there on merit.  Globally, almost 90% of parliamentarians are men.  This tells me that action is required to provide a truly level playing field.

After all, I’ve attended meetings packed with women campaigning to keep local nurseries or hospitals open.  With less cash, less access to private transport and more likely to have had their much needed benefits cut, women understand the impact of these decisions.

But there are too few women able to influence the debate in our Council Chambers and in the Scottish Parliament.

It’s time now to make sure that far more women are involved in making and voting for these decisions.

My Party, the Scottish Greens, insists that 50% of winnable seats have women candidates.  So it can be done.  Women aren’t a minority, but the under-represented majority.

Please get involved and support Women5050.  Your support will make a difference.

Christina McKelvie, MSP, SNP: christina-mckelvie

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has taken a significant head-on decision in making her Cabinet 50:50 and I applaud that wholeheartedly. During the Referendum campaign, all of us out on stalls, street stands and chapping the doors found there was a real groundswell of women who were determined to be heard.

That campaign changed Scotland’s political landscape. Most of those women who campaigned then have since joined the SNP because they know that our national party is doing all it can to shift to a better and more balanced position. That applies not only in politics but across companies and onto the boards of both private and public sector organisations.

In South Lanarkshire, the SNP has six women as elected politicians now: Linda Fabiani, myself and Aileen Campbell as MSPs, plus Angela Crawley, Lisa Cameron and Margaret Ferrier as MPs. That’s some contingent! There is no doubt we have the ability; what we need now is the legislation to build on that.

It is women who bear the brunt of Westminster’s welfare cuts and I constantly strive to draw more attention to that reality. The public school boys in London have little or no comprehension of the realities of the Bedroom Tax, cuts in disability allowances and the impact of benefit sanctions.

Successful businesswomen have a far harder time of it than the men alongside, as research repeatedly reveals. Sexual discrimination may be slightly more subtle these days but it certainly hasn’t gone away

All of us – including the men of course – need to encourage women to push themselves and to work hard so that they can fulfill their talents and abilities.

Why I am a supporter – Kelly Parry

SNP member and activist, Kelly Parry, tells us why she supports the campaign: 2aad2c7

Across all parties, voters mark their ballots based on who they believe will make the country, and on a wider scale the world, a better place. Something I think we can all agree on, across all party lines, is that making the country a better place involves the equality and liberation of women. I believe one hugely important way to ensure women reach their political potential is implementing 50% representation in our parliaments, public boards and councils.

Earlier this year, we had an opportunity to increase the representation of women in the UK parliament – and to an extent, we did it. Women now hold 29% of the seats in Westminster’s House of Commons and that is a huge improvement from the 23% we held before the election. This is the biggest increase in women MP’s since 1997 which is fantastic. For all we can celebrate this election as a win for women, which it arguably was, it’s important to note what needs to improve and how supporting a 50:50 gender balanced parliament can help us achieve this.

29% of women still means 71% are men; that still means women are hugely underrepresented in the House of Commons and creating the laws that affect women. In May, A Fair Deal for Women found that women are disproportionately, negatively affected by cuts to social services and provisions. The group, made up by 11 women’s rights charities, found that benefit cuts are more likely to affect poorer women, particularly through to the freezing of child benefits and tax credits. The World Economic Forum’s gender gap index listed the UK at 26, a fall of 8 places. This slip suggests a need to ensure women are kept at the forefront of political decision making and by introducing a 50% gender quota, we can ensure women are protected by the state rather than harmed by it.

Having more women decision makers is a priority, as is having more LGB women, women of colour, disabled women and trans women making decisions that affect them. Ensuring political spaces are no longer reserved for white, straight men is crucial for advancing the experiences of all traditionally social minority groups. And we need to reform our parliaments to do this, I have watched and lobbied for parliaments to be more inclusive for all my adult life, for them to be more accessible and less about macho posturing and shouty men – it’s sadly not changed much in my lifetime and we are kidding ourselves if we think it will without a different approach. We have been having the same conversations for too long about women’s inclusion in politics and if we keep waiting for behaviours and traditions to change by themselves I fear we will sadly still be having the same conversation for many years, and decades to come. The behaviours inside of parliaments remain largely unchanged and despite there being an increase of women they still have to negotiate the rows of pale-stale-males and fight for their place and their voices to be heard long after they have been elected.

As a working class woman active in politics, I know I am the lucky one. I believe by implementing a 50:50 gender quota, we can shatter the glass ceiling and ensure the most disadvantaged women have a say in the politics of Scotland and the UK.

Why we need more women in our Parliament

This is a guest blog by Ellie Hutchinson, feminist, blogger and prevention worker at Scottish Women’s Aid.pic_150_ellie-photo
There are not enough women in Politics. Fact. There is not enough diversity in Politics. Fact.
When you look around Parliament and most the people there are white dudes called David*, you know you have a problem. Yes, David’s are important to this country, and yes they have a lot to offer, but proportionately, Dave’s are hugely over represented in Politics.
All of us deserve to be truly represented in the highest branches of power. This is one of the many perks of democracy- we get to have our voice represented by people who represent us. Of course, the issue of women’s representation in politics is a hugely complicated one-which women will speak for who? Not all women experience womanhood in the same way- so what happens if we just replace white middle class dudes with white middle class women? (spoiler: nothing good) Are more women in politics actually any better for women? (Thatcher klaxon) and finally-can’t one of the feminist Dave’s speak out for women?
Of course they can, and they do-there are lots of men in parliaments all over the world fighting the good fight for equality. But when women are better represented, areas that tend to more commonly impact on women are better addressed.** The recent cuts to public spending show just how crucial this is. When there are virtually no women round the decision making table, bad decisions are made. Women have been disproportionately impacted on by public spending cuts, and as a result women, and the children some of us care for, have hugely suffered***
When men are over represented, not only are bad decisions made, but the lack of women in politics stops more women entering politics- to steal an amazing quote “you can’t be what you can’t see”. And when women do enter the political realm, they’re met with a) homophobia b) sexism c) all of the above. Let’s be honest, the boorish, aggressive, Oxbridge jobs for the boys atmosphere of traditional politics seems pretty gross. All that guffawing. Yuck.
Both of these issues- women’s under-representation and the sexism experienced by women in Politics are absolutely intertwined. In our misogynist culture, women aren’t meant to have power. We’re not meant to be intelligent. We’re certainly not meant to have opinions. Pipe down, love. The menz are speaking.
The cultural norms that perpetuate this attitude-to be seen and not heard-are the exact same ones that underpin all forms sexism. It might seem a bit of a leap, but if you’re not seen as equal, then why should you be paid the same, treated the same, represented the same? Why should your claims of violence and abuse be taken seriously? If your voice isn’t important then why should you be involved in decisions about your body, about your health, about your economy? Women are not just under represented in Politics, we’re under represented in every single facet of life, culture and society. The only place we’re over represented is in low paid jobs and  stats about sexual violence.
There’s a global consensus that violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of inequality, so tackling over representation of men in all areas of our cultural, social and political life is vital to women’s health, wellbeing and livelihoods. The UN puts it perfectly when it saysGender inequality and discrimination are root causes of violence against women, influenced by… historical and structural power imbalances”****. Take a walk down politically memory lane and our history is dominated by Daves. They’ve been in charge of the country For. Ever. I’ve nothing against Daves per se, but dudes- move over. You’re perpetuating a historical and structural power imbalance and that’s not cool. Not cool at all.
*or Nick or Edward or John. (you get the point)

Why I’m a Supporter

This blog is written by Nighet Nasim Riaz, a Phd Researchers and Associate lecturer at the University of West of Scotland and SNP activist. nighet-nasim-riaz

Politics has changed dramatically over the independence referendum period with many women becoming more visible and vocal on both sides of the debate. I am very proud of the precedent that we as women have set towards a different type of dialogue involving listening and talking, respectful and dignified discussions, rather than the loud and boisterous interactions I had become accustomed to from our male counterparts.

The 50:50 initiative is a progressive social movement where many of us as women can relate to, to enable our voices to be heard on an equal platform in Scottish politics. With a change in leadership for both the SNP and Scottish Government,the First Minister very quickly moved towards gender equality in the Cabinet, and actively encouraging this model across the party hierarchy. Nicola Sturgeon is a role model for many women, young, old across Scotland. We can relate to her, and we admire the qualities of a strong woman who inspires us to stand up for ourselves, be seen and be heard.

As the main facilitator of a grass roots campaign Scots Asians for Yes, I was struck by the very small number of women from minority ethnic backgrounds who were vocal in the debate around their futures and the futures of their communities, society at large and Scotland. The active ethnic minority women I met through my journey inspired and encouraged me and others to value ourselves for our important and very unique contribution to the political spectrum, during this period. Other grass root campaigns such as Women for Independence and the Radical Independence Campaign were instrumental in empowering many women from different backgrounds with the knowledge, skills and confidence to represent themselves and others.

The last couple of years haven’t been a bed of roses, and I have met my fair share of misogynists and very unpleasant individuals indeed, but on the whole, it’s been a positive and liberating experience where the majority of the people I have met have been supportive, encouraging me to challenge myself in what was sometimes a hostile environment. What has surprised me most has that the most negativity I have faced has been from ethnic minority men, who have repeatedly told me that my place was in the kitchen and asking if I didn’t have ironing to do…..  Developing skills of survival (forming a ‘thicker skin’), negotiating ‘spaces’, and overcoming my shyness to standing up for myself and others have been invaluable.

Reflecting back, my political journey has been crucial to me recognising my strengths and weaknesses, moving from seeing myself as a quiet individual to leading campaigns and encouraging both ethnic minorities and women to stand in elections, which helped me confront one of my biggest fears of never seeing myself as good enough.  We must challenge ourselves, continuously questioning our place in society, not just for ourselves but for everyone to create the kind of society we want to live in. Until we have full equality, positive action is a mechanism which must be utilised to get fair representation not just in politics, but other institutions and arenas. Let’s start with gender, but also remember those who are side lined due to their race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. Their voices matter too.