Demands for action over rhetoric as women make up only 30% of council candidates

Upcoming elections paint a picture of extreme under-representation of women in Scottish politics

ACTION OVER RHETORIC is the rallying cry of the Women 5050, the campaign advocating 50 per cent representation of women in councils and in the Scottish Parliament, as it revealed that across 32 Scottish councils only 30 per cent of local candidates are women.

After analysing the candidate lists of all wards in all 32 councils for the upcoming May local elections, the charity found that there are 21 wards in Scotland with only men on the ballot paper.

It urged all political parties to set their commitments and radical action to meet the 50 per cent minimum required for equality on the ballot.

“Having women in council chambers and around decision-making tables changes the conversation.” Emma Ritch

Talat Yaqoob, chair and co-founder of Women 5050, said: “Currently, only 25 per cent of councillors are women. With only 30 per cent women candidates in this election and a shocking 21 wards with no women on the ballot paper whatsoever, it is clear that we will not reach fair representation for women in 2017. It is time for rhetoric to be turned to action, and we must implement legislation for all parties to follow, to make sure decision makers reflect the society they are meant to represent."

Despite the leaders of Scotland’s three major parties all being women, the picture on the ballot is less impressive, with political parties universaly failing to reach the 50 per cent mark.

The key findings were that out of 2550 candidates only 775 were women, a figure reaching approximately 30 per cent. Although advances have been made by some political parties, none in Scotland have reached the minimum standard for equal representation. 

The Scottish Greens lead the pack with the highest number of women as local candidates on 45 per cent. The SNP have 41 per cent women candidates, Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Labour follow on 33 and 32 per cent repectivley and the Scottish Conservatives have the worst percentage, at just 17 per cent .

With only 30 per cent women candidates in this election and a shocking 21 wards with no women on the ballot paper whatsoever, it is clear that we will not reach fair representation for women in 2017.” Talat Yaqoob

Emma Ritch, executive director of Engender said: "Having women in council chambers and around decision-making tables changes the conversation. It's vital that councils making decisions about vital public services look like the people they are elected to represent. Our recent Sex & Power report found that women fill only 27 per cent of the 3029 leadership roles in Scotland. The time for bold action on women's representation is now."

The local authorities with the worst representation of women candidates are Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on 10 per cent, Orkney 20 per cent and Moray on 20 per cent. The councils with the best representation are West Lothian with 41 per cent of candidates standing who are women and East Ayrshire on 40 per cent.

Only 45 women MSPs, approxiamtely 34.9 per cent of the chamber, have been elected to the fifth Scottish Parliament, matching the proportion in 2011. The 2003 Scottish Parliament elections remain the high point of women’s representation in Scotland at all political levels at 39.5 per cent. 

Dr. Meryl Kenny, steering group member of Women 5050 and gender and politics lecturer at the University of Edinburgh added: "Levels of women's representation in Scottish local Government have flat-lined for decades. In 2017, we see the same patterns- some parties taking the issue seriously, while others like the Scottish Conservatives continue to lag well behind. It's time to follow the evidence and take tough action through gender quotas to ensure 50/50 representation in our councils and parliament.”

The local council elections in Scotland will take place on May 4.

Picture courtesy of Women 50:50

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