Quantcast
Connect with us

Female representation in local Scottish government rises to 25 percent

Published

on

Standing back from the propaganda battle between the Scottish National party and Labour over which has the most to brag about after Thursday’s council elections, one neutral fact emerges: local government in Scotland is a little less male, pale and stale.

An analysis of the final results by Meryl Kenny and Fiona Mackay at Edinburgh university has found that – against some expectations – the number of women elected to Scotland’s 32 councils has gone up to nearer 25%, the highest level in decades (perhaps ever).

ADVERTISEMENT

With the very real anxieties about a record low turnout confounded by the less than terminal estimated 42% rate on Thursday, these gender diversity figures would also appear to be better news.

After years where the number of women running Scottish councils had been effectively static at 22% (with a headline figure of 21.6% in 2007), the new overall total is 24.3%.

This rise is largely down to Labour’s new positive action programme, where 50% of new vacancies are being filled by women, and the SNP’s much more coincidental increase in female representation; unlike Labour, the SNP does not have any positive action in place as its policies are still being formulated, but its number of elected women is very close to the percentage put up as candidates.

Kenny and Mackay, who have been pioneering this field of studies, are still not impressed. The overall figure is still less than one in four women councillors, while in England’s 36 Metropolitan councils, the overall rate of women’s representation is now 40%.

ADVERTISEMENT

Several English councils are doing extremely well on gender parity: Bury, with 64% women, South Tyneside on 57% and Gateshead at 55% – far better than any council in Scotland, where none has yet broken even 40%. So, why are aspiring women politicians in England finding it easier to get ahead? After all, party policies are pretty much the same, in both jurisdictions.

In their latest analysis, they say this:

While these numbers represent a modest improvement on previous elections – and a record performance since the mid 1990s – the general trend remains one of stalled progress… We’re a long way from saying goodbye to the male, pale and stale face of Scottish local politics.

ADVERTISEMENT

Their latest blog is one of several very strong commentary pieces posted over the weekend analysing the results: Susan Dalgety on Birdseyeview attacks Scotland’s low voting rates by contrasting them with Malawi’s 76% rate; Birdseyeview herself, Kate Higgins takes the SNP’s shortcomings at the council elections to task there too, while the Jimmy Reid Foundation asserts again that local democracy overall in Scotland is in dire trouble.

On women’s representation, the wooden spoon again goes to Inverclyde, which has just one women councillor in Vaughan Jones for Labour. That was better than its 0% rate in 2007 but Jones was the only woman standing for election there. Inverclyde is followed closely by East Lothian, with has 8.7% women and no excuses, and then Orkney and the Western Isles at 9.5% and 9.7%.

In these latter places the domination of non-party independents in local politics works against systematic positive action (on Shetland, which is also run entirely by independents, it has a 13.6% rate), suggesting that wider political and community culture is at issue there.

ADVERTISEMENT

On the positive side, they add, Scottish Labour’s positive action programme has had fruits in Glasgow and Edinburgh, both places where the party won the most seats. In the capital, while the number of women councillors overall has dropped to 15 out of 58 – most notably with the defeat of its Lib Dem council leader Jenny Dawe – Labour’s ratio has jumped to 40%.

In Glasgow, which had the lowest voter turnout of all council areas on Thursday, at 32.4%, the Scottish Labour women to men figure rose from 22% in 2007 to 31.8%. By contrast, only 2 of the 18 SNP councillors in Edinburgh are women (11%) and 7 out of 27 in Glasgow (25.9%).

Yet Glasgow is only one of five Scottish authorities which have broken the 30% barrier on female representation, along with Aberdeenshire, Moray, South Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire, which takes top prize with 37.3%.

ADVERTISEMENT

On a party footing, the SNP’s overall figure is up from 21.2% in 2007 to 24.8% in 2012, boasting 106 women councillors. Scottish Labour, which insists it will reach full parity by 2020, has 104 female councillors and has recorded by far the best improvement, to a 26.1% representation rate from 17.5% in 2007.

Perversely given their dismal performance on Thursday, the Lib Dems have the best overall rate of 36.6%, the Tories barely changed at 24.3%, while the Scottish Green party’s positive action strategy (to get at least 40% women elected) has failed badly: while more Greens were elected, its rate is now 28.6%, down from 50% in 2007. The number of women independents has meanwhile fallen back, from 20.8% to 15.3% now.

Mackay says she may well revise her first view that these figures represent “stalled progress”, given Scottish Labour’s advances, but the two researchers insist not enough is yet being done:

These dismal figures should surely serve as a wake-up call to parties and councils that something has to change in order to make local politics more inclusive, and to ensure that local councils look like the communities they represent. As we have noted elsewhere, the time has come for tough action on women’s representation in Scotland.

ADVERTISEMENT

Their critique is shared by Kate Higgins, the political blogger who runs Birdzeyeview and herself a former councillor. She believes the overwhelming and often over-bearingly male dominated culture within many Scottish parties and local branches is the root cause, while many party leaderships seem unwilling to take decisive action.

Higgins, who is preparing her own blog on this, said women are still routinely seen as a nice bit of novelty – the “young women councillor” – or boxed into branch secretary posts. She believes a full-scale culture shift is needed: are middle aged men prepared to give up or share their power?

The big dichotomy is if you look at community structures and community activism: there are lots of women, if not more than men, running playgroups, parent councils, community councils and gala committees, so why aren’t they involved in helping to run political parties and standing as candidates? There’s a very much male-dominated culture at local level in all parties and that’s the blockage which needs to be fixed.

© Guardian News and Media 2012

ADVERTISEMENT

[Businesswoman sitting on steps via Jose AS Reyes / Shutterstock]


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Facebook

‘Possible war in the Middle East’: Editor explains why Trump’s visa attack on Iran is ‘lame’ response to oil field bombing

Published

on

As the United States is searching for ways to draw down on decades-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, serious conflicts might be afoot, one Daily Beast reporter told MSNBC Sunday.

World News editor Christopher Dickey told host Kendis Gibson he doesn't understand the point of barring Iranian diplomats from being able to come to the United Nations General Assembly meeting this fall. During a "Meet the Press" interview Sunday morning, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said that the U.S. should deny the visas. The statement prompted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to call her out for "warmongering," and said she was out of touch with Americans who don't want to get into another costly Middle East war.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Why you should sell your house now — and not wait for the climate to change

Published

on

Cities across the United States are already seeing the impacts of climate change. Sea levels are on the rise in Miami, Florida, where ocean waters creep into the streets, even when it isn't raining. Massive wildfires have taken out whole neighborhoods in California and in Alaska, about 2.5 million acres have burned since July 3. Wildfires there are getting worse, according to experts.

The problem of climate change has reached a dangerous level for some homeowners in areas that are no longer insurable. In Miami, for example, the "street-level" is now considered the basement and insurers are dropping coverage for basements. According to the Daily Beast, at least 340,000 California homeowners lost their property insurance coverage between 2015 and 2018 because the wildfires are getting worse and companies don't want to pay out when homes are destroyed.

Continue Reading
 

Facebook

‘Please give me the audacity of a mediocre white man’: Editor unleashes on Justice Brett Kavanaugh

Published

on

Managing Editor Tiffany Cross, who co-founded The Beat DC, unleashed on the most recent Supreme Court Justice to be outed for sexual misconduct.

Max Stier, a classmate of Justice Brett Kavanaugh came out with another story of the justice forcing his naked penis into the hand of a woman. The FBI was supposed to do a full investigation into Kavanaugh, and Stier gave them the information. Somehow, however, the investigation either wasn't completed, wasn't revealed or was ignored, because none of the information revealed was released.

Cross said that there are some who normally would have said, "man if only we knew about these allegations during the confirmation hearing." The problem, of course, is that it was known, Cross explained. It was simply ignored by Republicans in the majority. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is an excellent example of a pro-choice, pro-woman senator who claimed she trusted Kavanaugh. She's suffered the consequences from her home-state in wake of the vote. In the past four years, she has dropped from being the most favored senator in the country to among the least.

Continue Reading
 
 
Help Raw Story Uncover Injustice. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image