In the post-election aftermath, as we catch up on sleep, the time comes for in-depth analysis of the results. As the experts and gurus number-crunch, I have done a bit of maths myself in regards to gender representation in the Scottish Parliament and I cannot say I am thrilled with the results. Traditionally, Holyrood has always had better female representation than Westminster, consistently above 33% in Edinburgh, compared to the record high of 29% in 2015 General Election (in 2010 – the figure was a mere 22%). This year the Scottish percentage was stable at 35%, the same as 2011. One would think this leaves no story to report, but looking at the differences between the parties the issue of lack of women in politics is highlighted. With the SNP two MSPs shy of a majority, the only majority in this election was a majority of males.
The most abysmal statistic is 80% of the Conservative seats are to be held by males. I struggle to comprehend how a party with a strong female – Ruth Davidson – as their biggest asset can only boast of 5 other females in their 31-strong parliamentary group. That means the main opposition party of Scotland’s Parliament are predominately male, and the problems aren’t isolated with the Tories. The Lib Dems have 0 female MSPs, despite retaining the same number of MSPs as 2011 at five, they lost the one female MSP previously elected, making their representatives 100% male. The unionist parties have a traditionally poor record of representation, but looking at the ‘bolder’ Greens, they still are sitting at a poor 17% female representation compared to their 2011 50:50 split.
The SNP’s new MSPs: 13:4 female/male split
Why is this so shocking? In the words of Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau: “Because it’s 2016.” Justin, following in the footsteps of our own First Minister created a gender balanced Cabinet – a crucial step in allowing women to not only be a visible part of politics, but a fundamental power in the main decision-making channels. The Cabinet is just one of the steps forward the SNP has taken in relation to boosting women’s participation in politics. In fact, the SNP had the biggest increase since 2011, increasing from a disappointing 28% to an impressive 43% of female representatives this year. Similarly, I must commend Labour, despite losing numerous seats, they retained their 54:46% male/female split.
Scottish Conservatives parliamentary group: only 6 female MSPs out of 31 (Tweet: Jamie Ross, Buzzfeed)
I am proud of my party’s commitment to female representation and our achievements in the field but realise there are still areas we must work on for equality, but the 15% increase is a great start. Out of the 5 parties represented in the Parliament, only one has retained the percentage of female MSPs, only one has increased the number whilst the other three have reduced their share. This is hugely disappointing and begs for question to be answered. Why were women not top of the party lists? Why are parties not prioritising gender equality? Why is our Parliament not representing the people who elect it?
This is more than a logistical problem, it is ideological. It requires progressive and collective commitment to move Scotland forward. Just over a 1/3 representation in the national Parliament for a group who make up over half of the population is simply not good enough. Party members need to push equality to the front of the agenda. Non-party affiliated citizens must demand a fairer Parliament which represents the demographic of their country. Hopefully in five years time, progress will be made and we will achieve a 50:50 Scottish Parliament. It is what the nation deserves.
Glasgow Equalities Officer