Inequality a Persistent Scourge in Our Politics

The Scotsman, April 5, 2017 | Go to article overview

Inequality a Persistent Scourge in Our Politics


Where are many anomalies in Scottish politics, butone of the most curiously persistent is the poor representation of women in local government. For all the inroads that have been made in recentyears, such as the fact we have women leading three of the nation's main parties and a government with a gender-balanced cabinet, the foothills of electoral politics remain a place where inequality is rife.

Any hopes that the upcoming local government elections will result in change look to be dashed. An analysis by the campaign group, Women 5050, has found that women make up just 30 per cent of Scotland's prospective councillors. The group, which wants women to make up 50 per cent of all councillors and MSPs, points out that in 21 wards across the country, there no women on the ballot paper whatsoever.

It is a given that politicians should represent the communities they serve, and so solving this problem should be a priority. Quite how that is achieved is less easy to say. Women 5050 believe legislation is required to ensure equal representation, but it remains doubtful whether this would be in keeping with public opinion. A poll commissioned last year by this newspaper for International Women's Day found that only 27 per cent of women and 18 per cent of men supported procedures to ensure a gender equal Holyrood.

The dilemma facing local government comes with added problems. It is largely unheralded and seldom glamorous work, but it is - or should be - a proud public service. By way of added incentive, you need only look at the current cabinet to see how formative years spent in local government can act as a springboard for the grander national stage. …

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