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. 

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?

Not just a question of leaders

Hugh MacDonald: Our leaders may be female but we still need more women in politics

 APRIL 30TH, 2016 - 12:01 AM  HUGH MACDONALD

"This almost primitive political power of women has been transformed in the century since suffrage and has reached a rarefied level in Scottish politics. The power of women in this country is now such that the three leading parties have women leaders in Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Kezia Dugdale (Labour) and Ruth Davidson (Conservative). This is not a blip or even a curiosity but part of a distinctive trend. The previous Conservative leader in Scotland was Annabel Goldie. The previous Labour leader was Johann Lamont. Sturgeon comes from an SNP tradition that has as its most famous standard bearers the groundbreaker Winnie Ewing and the late and inspirational Margo MacDonald.

So are there reasons why women play such a strong role in Scottish politics, certainly at the top? Is our nation at the forefront of a march towards a system that will reflect gender at least 50-50? And as we approach the Holyrood elections what is the outlook for women in the Scottish political system?

There is, apparently, something in the notion that culture plays a part. Dr Meryl Kenny, lecturer in gender and politics at the University of Edinburgh, points out: “You are seeing a lot of women making that transition from the ‘small p’ politics to become involved in family issues, local organisations and then to running for office. Women for Independence has facilitated that.”

Women for independence in Scotland present an election agenda for women

The Scottish election is to be held on 5 May 2016. Women for Independence national coordinator Kathleen Caskie writes:

My gran used to tell me I had two ears and one mouth for a reason, the implication being that I should listen for at least double the amount of time I spent talking.
In the heat of an election campaign, political parties are set to transmit, not receive, seeking to convince you why you should give them one or more votes. Hundreds of organisations in Scotland have produced their own 'manifestos' for the Scottish Parliament elections, lists of demands which they want the Scottish Parliament to implement or pay for.
All across Scotland voices are being raised to demand this or that action from the Scottish Parliament. And now, Women for Independence have joined the fray, by publishing our own report into what women want from the Scottish Parliament.

A highlight in the report is the following comment about 'employment' and 'care':

We do not consider ‘employment’ and ‘caring’ to be separate issues.  Both are work; sometimes some women get paid for this work.  Caring work disproportionately falls upon women in our society, and our lives often do not allow us to clearly separate paid work and unpaid work in a way that men more easily can.


Arguing for quotas in Scotland

People, understandably, want the people who sit in our parliament and council chambers to be elected on merit. So do we. But right now women are being kept out of Holyrood and other decision-making spaces because of factors that have nothing to do with our ability to do the job.

Quotas are a deliberate disruption of deep-rooted assumptions about who should have power and who shouldn’t.

They provide a jolt to systems and ways of working that yield an over-representation of men in political life.

Quotas cut through one of the barriers to our representatives looking more like the people that they represent.

Women's equality party in Scotland

Targeting violence against women, recognising the economic contribution of women, ensuring 5050 representation and pursuing equal pay and social security.

See also. - WE, founded by Catherine Mayer and comedian Sandi Toksvig, fights its first election at a time when we have a woman First Minister, a 50:50 cabinet and female leaders of the three main parties. Some might question what it is fighting for. But Anne Beetham, a founder of the party in Scotland, has a swift,sarcastic retort: “It’s wonderful that people are taken in by that smokescreen. Because, in fact, we only have 34 per cent of MSPs and only 24 per cent of councillors across Scotland are women, and out of 32 councils in Scotland only three are led by women. Out of 1,223 councillors across Scotland only four are black and minority ethnic women. That’s not good for our society.”