What Parties are Doing for Women Candidates

Women 5050 has written to all the main political parties and asked what specific activities they are doing to tackle the significant under-representation of women in local government. Currently,  only 25% of Councillors on Scotland are women. Local government is responsible for schooling, housing, local environment, hospitals and clinics, transport and an endless list of issues which effect our daily lives. It is only right that the decision makers fully represent society.

We wrote to all parties on the 17th of August 2016, below are the responses we have received in order of date:

Statement from the Scottish Labour Party: received 23rd August 2016 

As you know, the Scottish Labour Party stood the highest number of female candidates of any party during the Scottish Parliament elections in 2016 – over 53%. While we will regrettably fall short of that level for this election, it is our intention to make progress on our 2012 levels of women representation. That means:

–          we will require local parties to select at least 50% of our new candidates (those candidates who are not sitting councillors) using positive action measures, such as all women shortlists and twinning.

–          Over and above this we will protect the number of sitting female councillors in every Labour Group.

We have held four women only events in June in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Lanarkshire and Stirling to reach out to potential women candidates for 2017. The aim of these events was to give attendees an insight into the role of a councillor, how local government works and support and advice on our selection procedures. The sessions were designed to be welcoming and informative forums; a key element of the sessions was having a current female councillor giving their experiences, talking about what the role is really like and how being a councillor can fit around other responsibilities including other employment and caring responsibilities.

We had a good take up for each of the events and feedback was positive, with many of the women saying that they appreciated the supportive environment these events created, as well as the opportunity to ask questions and hear about the experiences of a female councillor.

As a party, we have led the pursuit of equal representation in the Scottish Parliament since 1999. In 2012, we increased our proportion of women candidates to 27.2% from 20.3% in 2007. This is still not good enough and we will continue to aim to improve our representation of women with the overall objective of achieving the aims of the Women 5050 campaign.

Statement from the Scottish Green Party: received 3rd September 2016

The Scottish Green Party has a constitutional commitment to gender balance that requires all Branches to have a mechanism in place to ensure 50% of candidates in winnable wards are women, and that 40% of all candidates are women.

We passed a motion at our conference last year which has led to us doing more research into how to improve our approach to assuring equalities. We are creating a development programme which is also about proactively.

But we are well aware that merely choosing women as candidates in winnable wards won’t necessarily mean they get elected, so our Women’s Network has been offering support and training to women candidates and creating suitable opportunities for women in order to develop

 Statement from the SNP – received 6th September 2016

On 12 March this year, at the SNP Spring Conference, the SNP membership instructed the party’s National Executive Committee to bring forward a mechanism to ensure that many more women are put forward for election than in the past.  New rules agreed at the SNP’s National Council in May 2016 will require both women-only and open shortlists in seats where the party is standing more candidates than sitting councillors.

In a ward where the party has one sitting councillor and stands two candidates, at least one of the candidates will be required to be a woman.

Similar procedures were adopted by the SNP for this years’ Holyrood election, where women-only shortlists were submitted in seats where an incumbent SNP MSP was stepping down. Due to this mechanism, 43 per cent of SNP MSPs elected were women, an increase from the 2011 term.

The SNP also have a National Women’s and Equalities Convener (NWEC) who is responsible for the development, implementation and monitoring of equality strategies. The NWEC also supports constituency and branch women’s officers and chairs the SNP Women’s Academy, while advising on equality issues relating to internal procedures, such as vetting and selection. There have been several successful Women’s Conferences, bringing women together to share ideas, support each other and learn from best practice across the country.

The SNP are committed to ensuring Scotland’s council chambers reflect the communities they represent, and we look forward to working hard to turn a record number of female candidates into a record number of female Councillors.

Statement from the Scottish Liberal Democrats – received 8th September 2016

Thanks for your email. I agree that more needs to be done to ensure that women can play a full role in our political system. As a party the Liberal Democrats are committed to ensuring that more women are elected under our banner. We think it is important to ensure that our parliamentary parties reflect the communities we serve and at the moment we are not doing well enough in this regard.

As you are aware, earlier this year our party conference passed a motion that means we will have female candidates in top target seats for the next round of UK and Scottish Parliamentary elections. A female candidate will also top our European election list in 2019, should it go ahead. I led the debate and was made the case successfully for changing our party rules to ensure that we are more representative. The changes were controversial in some corners of the Liberal Democrats but I was clear that this was the right thing to do.

We currently have a number of fantastic female councillors. Around 40% of our current team of councillors are women and we are working hard to ensure that there will be more after the election next year. In terms of support, women who want to stand for election have been offered help through specialist away days and training weekends. This process has been ongoing since the last set of local elections in 2012.

Our central campaigns and candidates committee is currently working with the Association of Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillors and local party officers to ensure that our team of candidates is as representative as possible.

The motion passed earlier this year included new responsibilities for office holders to support the drive to secure the election to parliament of more women and candidates from other underrepresented groups. They will also encourage and support more women and candidates from underrepresented groups to be elected to councils and internal committees in the Party.

Other measures include a new diversity fund, the appointment of new mentors and plans for a programme of information and training events to provide support and information for aspiring candidates. 

I appointed a gender balanced leadership team following the election in May. This balance will be maintained over the course of this parliament.

I am aware that there is more to be done here. I would like to make clear to you that delivering gender balance in our parliamentary groups is a priority for me. And as you would expect, I will be working hard to ensure that as many Liberal Democrat women as possible are elected to councils next year.

Statement from the Scottish Conservatives – Received 20th September 2016

Thank you very much for writing to us.

Women have played a significant role in Scottish politics from the beginning of devolution and it is great to see the three largest parties currently led by women.

However, it is clear that this is not the case across public life. As you point out, the proportion of female councillors in Scotland remains low. We do agree that political parties need to attract more women to stand as candidates and consequently serve as elected representatives.

Scottish Conservatives have not supported initiatives such as all-women shortlists, believing that we must address the root causes rather than just the symptoms of unequal representation. We seek to welcome candidates from all sections of the community, drawing experience from people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. As the Party that has now delivered two female Prime Ministers and is led in Scotland by a high-profile female politician, we want to send out a clear message to all women – politics is for you too.

We remain committed to tackling the barriers preventing women from participating in politics and public life. We will continue our outreach work to female candidates through the Scottish Conservative Womens’ Council and keep continually reviewing best practice with our Candidates Board.