Number of women councillors in Scotland rises but remains low

A view over Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. The western isles returned no women councillors at last week's local authority elections. Picture: TSPL
A view over Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. The western isles returned no women councillors at last week's local authority elections. Picture: TSPL
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The gender gap in Scotland’s town halls has narrowed but women still account for fewer than one in three councillors returned at last week’s elections.

Female representatives on the 32 local authorities north of the border have risen from 24 to 29 per cent since 2012.

The figure trails both the Scottish Parliament and Westminster, with women making up 35 per cent of MSPs and 34 per cent of Scottish MPs elected in 2015.

Both the Greens (18.5 per cent) and the SNP (15 per cent) saw their total number of female councillors rise, but the Tories saw their number drop by six per cent.

The lack of gender equality on Scottish councils was most exposed in the Outer Hebrides, where no women were elected to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for the first time in its 20 year history.

Of 60 candidates on the islands, only six were women.

A council spokesperson said: “Unfortunately none of the six were elected and that is far from ideal, resulting in no female representation for the first time ever on the Comhairle.

“It is however the result of democratic elections.”

Iain Stephen Morrison, editor of Am Pàipear, a publication based on Benbecula, said it was not immediately clear why both the number of female candidates and subsequently the number of councillors had dropped at recent elections on the islands.

“We’ve had notable female councillors in the past who have been very successful,” he said. “But there is a trend. We had seven in 2007 and three in 2012, so the numbers have been dropping.

“People say the job is not attractive, but there are lots of self-employed women, or those who have retired, who would make great councillors.

“The response to the result here has been mixed: I commented on Twitter and one women responded by asking what the problem was, she felt men were perfectly capable of representing her.

“But it’s generally accepted you want a council to be balanced and to reflect all sections of society.

“It’s not just gender - the age profile of the council is also skewed. We could do with younger people getting involved.”