Scottish devolution was ‘step change’ for getting more women into politics

Dr Lesley Orr said politics before the Scottish Parliament came into existence was regarded as almost a 'men-only' job. Picture: TSPL
Dr Lesley Orr said politics before the Scottish Parliament came into existence was regarded as almost a 'men-only' job. Picture: TSPL
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Scottish devolution was the “major step change” for the women’s movement in Scotland over the last 25 years, a leading feminist historian has said.

Dr Lesley Orr, one of the keynote speakers at the 25th anniversary conference of Engender, Scotland’s feminist policy organisation, in Edinburgh today said politics before the Scottish Parliament came into existence was regarded as almost a “men-only” job.

“The culture of political parties, local councils and Westminster was not encouraging to women. The attitude was ‘that’s what men do’ and women were under-represented and regarded as some sort of alien invader,” Dr Orr said.

She said work on improved representation for women made progress with the cross-party Constitutional Convention during the 1990s.

“The 50:50 campaign was established in the 1990s with the idea that when the Scottish Parliament was established there would be an equal gender balance,” she said.

“Unfortunately it wasn’t enshrined in law and it didn’t quite deliver but it did make a difference.”

She also cited the Zero Tolerance campaign by Edinburgh City Council’s women’s committee, taken up across the UK and worldwide, as the other important milestone for women in Scotland.