A VOTE for independence promises more for women than staying in the Union, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has claimed.
She put forward her arguments for a Yes vote in the referendum at the first all-women Scottish Cabinet event in Edinburgh. It brought together women from 130 organisations, giving them an opportunity to ask questions of all of the female ministers in the Scottish Government.
Women are known to be more reluctant to vote for independence than men, and the Yes campaign has been highlighting what it says are the benefits of separating from the UK.
In February, 68 per cent of women backed staying in the UK, compared with 32 per cent who supported independence. By March, the figure was 62-38 per cent.
Men divided 54-46 per cent in favour of staying in the Union in that poll.
Ms Sturgeon told the audience: “I don’t think independence benefits only women, or will benefit all women in the same way.”
She highlighted areas such as childcare, employment policy and the welfare system.
“We have an ambitious plan to provide free universal childcare for children aged one to five – a policy that could save families up to £4,600 per child per year,” she said.
“This would improve the early education of our children, help families and support parents, particularly mothers, to go out to work.
“What happens to the minimum wage really matters to the standard of living of women and their children, because the fact is that women today are more likely to work in low-paid jobs. With independence, we can guarantee that the minimum wage will rise at least in line with inflation every year.”
Ms Sturgeon said further devolution would not deliver for Scotland.
“Last week, the Conservatives published their proposals for further devolution,” she said. “This confirmed what we all suspected: none of the UK parties would give us the competitive powers to grow the economy, set our taxes and fund public spending.
“Welfare will continue almost entirely in the hands of Westminster, and Westminster will continue to decide immigration and set Scotland’s budget.
“That is why independence is the greatest opportunity we will have for a future where we can realise our full potential and build a more equal society. The people of Scotland will decide and build the sort of society they want to see.”
Ms Sturgeon and her Cabinet colleagues were questioned by the audience on a range of issues, including childcare, women’s role in business, sport and the arts, and representation of women on boards.
The Scottish Government is proposing mandatory quotas that ensure a minimum of 40 per cent female representation on public boards.
She said: “I think we have got to start somewhere in setting clear targets or objectives.
“The objective in my view should be to get to gender equality where actually 52 per cent [representing the female proportion of the population] is the objective.”