We need more women at the Bar in Scotland - Ruth Crawford

#InspireInclusion was the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, which took place earlier this month.

Each year, thousands of events take place globally on this day, including marches, talks, concerts, exhibitions and debates – all aimed at raising awareness around the challenges faced by women in their daily lives, as well as celebrating their achievements.

This year on International Women’s Day, the Faculty of Advocates was pleased to sponsor the John Smith Trust and the John Smith Centre event held to celebrate women in public life.

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The discussion featured leading figures from across Scottish civil society, including Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, Ukraine City Council Member and John Smith Fellow Kateryna Musiienko, former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, and Leah Duncan-Karrim, a former John Smith Centre Emerging Leader, and currently Policy and Public Affairs Officer at Barnardo’s.

Ruth Crawford KC is Treasurer of the Faculty of Advocates​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Ruth Crawford KC is Treasurer of the Faculty of Advocates​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Ruth Crawford KC is Treasurer of the Faculty of Advocates​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

The event also marked 30 years of the legacy of John Smith MP. He was an early champion of women’s rights, introducing all-female shortlists in the Labour Party in 1993. This paved the way for a record number of female MPs being returned in the 1997 General Election. One of his enduring legacies is supporting emerging women leaders through the development programmes that were set up in his name – a prime example of how encouraging an inclusive society can help women progress.

Faculty has and will continue to promote inclusion and diversity in society through events such as these as well as through more targeted support – such as its scholarships for those wanting to train as devils and then practise as advocates.

For example, our Lord Hope and Faculty Scholarships aim to improve accessibility to the Bar. Applicants must demonstrate sufficient ability to merit an award, but greater weighting is given to those in financial need or to those from groups currently under-represented at the Bar. It is encouraging to see that an equal number of male and female aspiring advocates are currently undertaking their devilling training with a view to calling to the Bar this year.

Applications for the next round of devilling scholarships opened this month and I look forward to seeing even more women stepping forward to commence devilling. We are still some way off from achieving gender parity at the Scottish Bar and a continued increase in the number of female devils is something which will continue to receive active support from all at Faculty.

Most recently, Faculty was delighted to hear that Lisa Gillespie KC has been appointed as Deputy Principal Crown Counsel resulting in – for the first time in Scottish legal history – an all-female, all-Faculty team leading Crown Office.

Ms Gillespie will support Principal Crown Counsel Ashley Edwards KC and Law Officers Dorothy Bain KC as Lord Advocate and Solicitor General Ruth Charteris KC in an all-woman team at the top of the Crown Counsel group.

Faculty will continue to actively promote and support inclusion and diversity at the Bar to ensure more women are given their rightful opportunity to thrive as advocates in Scotland and to play their vital role in our justice system.

Ruth Crawford KC is Treasurer of the Faculty of Advocates

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