Calls for equality laws amid fall in women council candidates

Talat Yaqoob, of Women 5050, says new laws are needed urgently. Picture: Contributed
Talat Yaqoob, of Women 5050, says new laws are needed urgently. Picture: Contributed
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New laws are being demanded to ensure equal representation in Scotland’s political system after it emerged that women make up fewer than a third of candidates in next month’s council elections.

Campaigners say that 
numbers have been “flat-
lining” for decades and gender quotas are now needed to 
tackle the matter.

Just 775 women are standing out of 2550 candidates in next month’s town hall vote. The Tories are doing worst with only 17 per cent of female 
candidates.

It comes after last year’s Holyrood election saw the number of women elected remain static at 45 – just 35 per cent of all MSPs.

Talat Yaqoob, the chair and co-founder of Women 5050, said the figures show action is needed to increase the number of women on 
Scotland’s councils.

She added: “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.”

READ MORE: Women account for just 25% of councillors in Scotland

The group, which wants women to make up 50 per cent of all councillors and MSPs, carried out its own analysis of the candidates who are standing for election to Scotland’s 32 councils on May 4.

The Greens have the largest proportion of female candidates, with women making up 45 per cent of those running, while 41 per cent of SNP 
candidates are women.

A third (33 per cent) of Liberal Democrat candidates are women, compared with 32 per cent of Labour candidates.

Dr Meryl Kenny, a politics and gender lecturer at Edinburgh University who is on the steering group of 
Women 5050, said: “Levels of women’s representation in Scottish local government have flat-lined for decades.

“It’s time to take tough action through gender quotas to ensure 50/50 representation in our councils and Parliament.”

The Scottish Parliament does not have the power to legislate on gender quotas for political parties. However, the Equality Act 2010 does allow political parties to adopt all- women shortlists for local government, Scottish Parliament and UK Parliament elections.

Scottish Conservative equalities spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “Ruth Davidson is living proof that for women who want to get right to the top, the Conservative Party is the place to do exactly that.”