Scotland - Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon Scotland

Ms Sturgeon, 45, is rapidly cementing her position as one of the most powerful women in British politics. As the first female First Minister of Scotland, she led the Scottish National Party to a triumphant victory in Scotland in the 2015 general election. Her personal popularity ratings are consistently high and she was a standout star of the general election leadership debates.

Scotland: women leaders in civil service

Scotland: 25 women of influence in the civil service:

Scotland’s permanent secretary, Leslie Evans, recalls her career progression by telling a story about how she was encouraged to improve relations between a certain female government minister and civil servants by discussing lipstick.
It seems laughable now that any employer would have the temerity to try and broker good relations in the workplace by falling into clichés and stereotypes about what women might want to discuss, but that anecdote from our top mandarin wasn’t from the Dark Ages, it was from the year 2000.
With a woman at the top of the civil service in Scotland along with a female first minister and three women party leaders in the Scottish Parliament it is sometimes easy to forget that it hasn’t always been this way.
But the truth is there is still a very long way to go for women to have true parity in the workplace with men, which is why legally enforced quotas on public sector boards will be a step in the right direction.
And it is why Holyrood magazine is using this issue to celebrate 25 women of influence in the public sector who have broken through the glass ceiling by sheer strength of personality, ability and hard work. They are an inspiration.
This is just a small, and by no means comprehensive, selection of the women who have been at the forefront of the march towards equality in Scotland, but they have been the pioneers for us all and they are the role models for the future.

Scotland - change and stay the same

In Scotland - change but not progress

We have a female first minister. Half of the cabinet are women. Three of the five party leaders in Scotland are female. The most senior civil servant in the Scottish Government is a woman. So we’ve got there, right? Equality.
Well, no. In this current Scottish Parliament, female MSPs still make up only 34.9 per cent of the total, 45 out of 129 MSPs, exactly the same number as were elected in 2011. Since the first Scottish Parliament in 1999 female representation has stayed fairly static at around a third: there were 48 female MSPs in 1999, 51 in 2003, 43 in 2007 and 45 in 2011 and 2016.
The highest ever proportion of women, in the 2003 parliament, still did not quite reach 40 per cent.
It’s not all bad news, though. As well as having a female head of the Scottish Government, two out of the six director generals leading directorates and nine of the 14 positions, including all three of the non-executive directors, on the strategic board, the ‘top table’ of the Scottish Government, are women. Gender balance in the Scottish Government has improved in recent years and 40 per cent of senior civil servants are women. At just 0.6 per cent, Scotland has the smallest gender pay gap in the UK for top public sector jobs.
The cross-party Women 50:50 campaign is pushing for 50 per cent representation for women in parliament, on councils and on public boards and change is beginning to take place. At this year’s Scottish Parliament election, the SNP introduced all-women shortlists where a sitting MSP was standing down and equal numbers of men and women on regional lists.
Over 50 per cent of Scottish Labour’s constituency candidates were women and Labour had ‘zipped’ alternate male and female candidates on regional lists. Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet is also gender-balanced. The Greens also operate zipped lists, but not having MSPs elected across all regions affected the result.
It has been the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who have lagged behind on gender equality. Two of the Tories’ regional lists had no women at all on them and most of the top spots on lists were given to men. The Conservative shadow cabinet has only one woman, Liz Smith, apart from Ruth Davidson herself.

Record numbers stand and same numbers sit?

The Guardian reports that a record number of women are standing for election in the 2016 federal election. The question is how many are standing for winnable positions? The Guardian concludes (with uncertainty over the likely outcome in 28 of 150 seats) that the numbers of women in parliament will not change much.

This reminds us of the hype before the Scottish elections this year and the disappointing results that followed 

Scotland: party views on 5050

The democracy5050 model presents a democratic way to achieve equal gender representation. Equal gender representation is not yet an issue in the lead-up to the Australian federal election (set for 2 July). We expect that things will not improve and this will lead to more people demanding concrete action. 

We have been following developments in Scotland where hopes of greater gender equity in representation were dashed this year. This article from Holyrood Magazine in Scotland serves as another warning that this important issue cannot be simply left to the political parties. There were high hopes about promoting gender balance prior to the recent Scottish elections. The results were very disappointing. Holyrood magazine put this issue to the three female leaders of the major parties. The answers below show divergent views. 

Q.           Very little progress was made in terms of gender representation in the Scottish Parliament in May’s election. Is there now a case for some form of cross-party agreement on quotas or a mechanism of some sort to ensure that half of the parliament is made up of women?
 A.           Nicola Sturgeon - Scottish National Party
 The SNP took clear steps to improve female representation ahead of the 2016 election, and I am proud that 43 per cent of our new group of MSPs are women – a significant step forward. In fact of our 17 new MSPs, 13 of them are women. It is disappointing that the overall gender balance of the parliament has not improved but I hope the SNP’s action on this will serve as an example to those parties which have a very poor record.
 A.           Ruth Davidson - Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
I think all parties need to look at the issue of female representation. I speak as someone who comes from a party which supplied Britain with its first and only female prime minister, and has had two female leaders of the Scottish party in succession. However, it’s quite clear that all parties need to do more to encourage women to get involved in politics and this is something we are actively seeking to do ahead of next year’s council elections.
A.           Kezia Dugdale -Scottish Labour Party
Cross-party agreement already exists – Labour, Greens, SNP and Lib Dem leaders all back the Women 50:50 campaign which is advocating for legislated candidate quotas. We need this ahead of the next Scottish Parliament election or we will simply have more of the same. It’s welcome that the SNP has finally followed Labour’s lead after over 20 years by introducing all women shortlists. This is a start but we must move away from voluntary mechanisms left to political whim. 

We have collected our posts before the Scottish election here:

And these are our posts after the election results were announced:


Muirfield men-only and out of open

Muirfield Golf Club in Scotland loses right to host Open after failing to admit women members:

Muirfield Golf Club has been stripped of the right to hold the Open Championship after voting against allowing female members.
A ballot of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which runs Muirfield, fell 14 votes short of the two-thirds majority required for a rule change.
After the announcement of the vote, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, which runs the Open Championship and which opened its own membership to women in 2014, quickly said it would no longer stage golf’s oldest major competition at all-male clubs.

nil, nada, zilch ... all the party sytem has to offer women

Another review of the miserable outcome on women's representation following the election in Scotland:

This is the fifth Scottish Parliament election where we have seen the same patterns – some parties taking women’s representation seriously, while others continue to be laggards. Without active intervention across the board, gains will remain slow and incremental at best, and are unlikely to cross even the 40 per cent threshold almost achieved over a decade ago. Increasingly, the call in Scotland, backed by a large body of international evidence, is for tough action in the form of legislative quotas that require all parties to take action on women’s representation.
As the influential cross-party campaign group Women 50:50 tweeted in the election aftermath, the change in women’s representation in 2016 has been ‘nil, nada, zilch... We have yet another parliament which fails to fully represent women in Scotland.’ If gender equality is something we take seriously as a society it can no longer be left to the discretion of political parties. For real and lasting progress, warm words must be backed up with statutory measures to embed equality in our political institutions. The time is now.

The inescapable conclusion is that Scotland cannot rely on the parties for change. Nor can we rely on party processes in Australia. 'Warm words' must be replaced by 'statutory measures'. The democracy5050 model assures gender equity in a truly democratic fashion. It is the revolution we have to have.

Scotland election - high hopes for women not met

Holyrood Magazine provides a detailed review of the outcome of the recent Scottish election. 

Among the many issues - including where to next for Scotland after the unsuccessful independence referendum - the magazine notes the poor performance on improving female representation:

Representation of women in parliament remained unchanged, which means they are still underrepresented, with just 45 of the 129 seats (just under 35 per cent). Labour has the highest proportion of female MSPs, with 45.8 per cent, the SNP come next on 42.9 per cent, the Tories trail on 19.4 per cent, and the Greens on 16.7 per cent. The Lib Dems have five MSPs, all men. 
Dr Meryl Kenny, lecturer in politics at the University of Edinburgh, said: “At the start of the Scottish Parliament election campaign, it seemed that the tide had finally turned for women’s representation in Scotland. The past two years had ushered in change not only from the top down – evidenced in the ‘female face’ of political leadership in Scotland – but also from the bottom up, through the civic awakening that had accompanied the referendum.”
She added: “Thirteen years on, the 2003 Scottish Parliament elections remain the high point of women’s representation in Scotland at all political levels (at 39.5 per cent). We can and must do better.”

Don't trust the parties on gender equity

The results for Election 2016 in Scotland show how we cannot rely on parties to give effect to the change required to create a balanced form of democracy:

TORY gains cost Scotland the chance to get more women into parliament, experts said yesterday.
While women head the country’s three biggest parties, and the Green leadership team is gender-balanced, the level of women elected on Thursday showed no change on 2011.
Just 45 of Scotland’s new MSPs are women – compared with 84 men. Despite making up around 51 per cent of the population, the Holyrood rate is a mere 34.8 per cent.

In Scotland attention turns to legislative action for gender balance in parliament

Again, from Scotland, disappointing results for the representation of women in the 2016 election are summed up:

Women's representation in Scottish Parliament fails to return to 2003 high. DESPITE hopes of an increase in the number of women MSPs, the Scottish Parliament will once again include 45 women, with Conservative gains partly blamed for lack of progress. 
Yesterday's Scottish parliamentary election returned the same number of women to Holyrood as in 2011, despite use of gender quotas and list zipping by several parties.  The proportion of women elected to Holyrood had been in steady decline since 2003, when 39.5 per cent of the total 129 MSPs were women. The figure in 2011 was 34.88 per cent, and this year saw no change.

It is interesting to note the conclusion that measures so far have failed to secure better gender representation for women and legislation is required. We should not expect the male dominated political system to roll-over - but we must believe in our power to make change happen.


...more from the Independent (updated 8 May) - gender representation no better in new parliament than the old - proving that fielding more female candidates is not enough. Women must have winnable spots on party lists if they are to be given a fair chance.

This article also talks about the failure to include women commentators in the election coverage - which is seen as a retreat from better female representation in the media in the Independence ballot and the lead up to the 2016 election.

Scottish election shows some gains but unimpressive gender representation for women

A report on the success of some YES campaigners promoting women in parliament in the Scottish election 2016. 

Three members of Women for Independence will boost parliament's unimpressive gender representation.
Several prominent yes campaigners have been elected to the Scottish parliament, though new alliance Rise failed to win any seats
Prominent figures from the broad 'yes' campaign, including Scottish Greens and Women for Independence (WfI) members, have been elected as MSPs in yesterday's Holyrood election. 

Scotland 2016: mixed results for women but no gain overall

Results are reported for the Scottish parliament election of 2016. According to the percentage of women in the new parliament is 34.9%. This is no better than the result in the previous election in 2011 and it is worse than the 1999 and 2003 election results. The Scottish parliament has already produced this fact sheet on women in the new parliament.

The chart shows the effect of when parties decide whether to field female candidates or not. For each party the percentage of females elected are SNP - 43%; Labor - 46%; Cons - 19%; Green - 17%; and Lib - 0%.

The results demonstrate the importance of both party policies and proportional representation in getting women into parliament. All but one of the women elected for the Conservative party and for the Labor party are shown as entering parliament as regional list MSPs. This is because the Scottish parliament is made up of constituency seats and regional list seats. 

Overall, we need to reflect on the barriers to women entering government as well as entering parliament.

  • The gender policies of the SNP and Labor have clearly worked for those parties. 
  • However, a simple count of women in the parliament does not give an indication of the empowerment of women in the legislature.
  • The fielding of more female candidates is a poor measure of empowerment.
  • The voter turnout is reported by the BBC to have varied by constituency in Scotland from between 42,9 to 68.3 percent. It is important to understand the role of gender issues in voter turn-out. Australia in contrast has compulsory voting.

The 5050 model we propose is a guarantee of equal representation which empowers the electorate not the parties. 

In Scotland, what each party does counts for women

Juliet Swann talks of measures that have led to improvements in women's representation:

Before this election, the only party using positive measures to achieve gender balance in every selection process was the Scottish Green Party. Labour’s 1999 efforts had been allowed to wither and the SNP, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were sticking with “soft” measures such as mentoring. But Nicola Sturgeon and Labour leader Kezia Dugdale made positive measures part of the 2016 selection process. The constituencies of retiring SNP MSPs were all subject to all-women shortlists.

Juliet Swann says that these measures have led to real change but that some are reluctant to take such action:

The Conservatives have consistently opposed positive measures to achieve gender balance, and it shows in their candidates. In Highlands and Islands they have an all-male slate in the constituencies and on the regional list. In the North East their two women candidates are at seven and nine. In West Scotland they have a female in 10th place, and the second-placed woman behind Ruth Davidson in Lothian is ninth.

Scotland: If more women stand, how many more will sit?

A total of 326 women are standing for election to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, up from 269 in the previous contest in 2011.

There are are 113 women hoping to get to Holyrood through the first-past-the-post (FPTP) constituencies, and another 213 in the PR constituencies.

What women want in Scotland

This article puts the case for women to be heard in politics.

'What the women involved in those listening exercises chose to talk about goes right to the heart of it all. What kind of Scotland do we want and how are we going to get there? The beginnings of an answer to that from the women involved is not a crude “independence or nothing”. It’s a series of propositions and possibilities to change and improve Scotland.'

Equal gender representation does not have to be justified in any other terms than simply that it is undemocratic for half the population to not be properly represented.

We can then see that the real bonus for us all is that equal gender representation disrupts the men's club of male dominated party politics. We can all then think about building a better society - not whether mostly male MPs hang on at the next election.

Political parties in Scotland commit to women's issues for May 2016 Holyrood election

Maybe, maybe Australian politics will start to seriously focus on women. How about male and female two-person electorates?