Tag Archives: scottish national party

Male, Pale, and Stale

James Brinning, a 19-year-old student at Cardiff University, had only one obvious qualification for being a Labour candidate in the council elections: he’s male.

That apparently was good enough for the selection committee, who do not appear to have bothered to even look at his Facebook profile.

This came to my attention when a friend apostrophised this young man’s attitudes to women, ethnic minorities, and other “banter” as “Labour candidate suspended by being a 19 year old on Facebook”.

Young white men “banter”. That is, they engage in amusing-to-them abuse of others who are funny because they are not white, young, or men. This behaviour is widely regarded as perfectly normal and not deserving of any negative consequence. I’d agree that what a teenager said and did shouldn’t necessarily be held against them in their adult years… but this teenager was actually standing for election.

Meantime in the Scottish council elections:

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Tories admitted on Thursday that action was needed after two Edinburgh university academics disclosed – not for the first time – that fewer than one candidate in four on 3 May will be a woman.

It’s an issue raised forcibly too for Holyrood, and Scottish Labour – a party often seen as packing its benches with the male, pale and stale – has told the Guardian it has a target to make sure a full 50% of all its council candidates are female within the decade.

Despite Scotland’s first PR elections in 2007, using the single transferable vote, less than 22% of Scotland’s 1223 councillors in the last administrations were woman. That will not improve next month: the number of women councillors has flatlined at 22% ever since Scotland’s 32 unitary authorities came into being nearly 20 years ago, in 1995.

Of Scotland’s 32 local councils, only three are led by women: one Labour – Rhondda Geekie in East Dunbartonshire, two by Lib Dems, Jenny Dawe in Edinburgh and Anne Robertson in Aberdeenshire.

As Doctor Meryl Kenny (UNSW) and Dr. Fiona Mackay (Edinburgh) point out:

Change can happen when there’s a shake up of the system. Reformers had high hopes that the introduction of a PR-STV electoral system in local government in the run-up to the 2007 elections would rejuvenate local politics and provide new opportunities for women to be selected and elected. However, progress did not materialize, instead depressingly, it was more of the same. In fact, there was a marked drop in the number of women candidates selected and a small decrease in the number of women councillors elected.

As I asked on 13th April:

Why shouldn’t all five of the main Scottish parties have policies against excluding women from the candidates lists? It’s too easy for parties not to – to tell themselves they select on merit, and it’s just that women are less interested in politics than men.

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Why do almost all political parties select men?

No political party today would argue that they ought to be allowed to discriminate against women.

But they all do.

We know they do, because we can look at the results:

Gender balance UK Parliament

That high point in the Labour graph was from 1997, when half of all constituencies with winnable seats were required to have women-only shortlists.

Of course men complained about this, and men’s reasons for complaining are obvious: this system meant that party activists who had earned and deserved a chance of winning a seat, would, in 50% of constituencies likely to go Labour, not stand a chance of being selected. That is to say, in just 50% of constituencies between 1997 and 2003 (when legal challenges from disgruntled men forced Labour to drop the policy) the men were in exactly the same position as women – and they didn’t like it.
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The UK consultation on #IndyRef

This is “A consultation on facilitating a legal, fair and decisive referendum on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom” available from the Scotland Office website. (PDF)

I agree with John Swinney:

“This is the biggest decision in 300 years so it must be founded in a fashion in which people have confidence. That means we’ve got to consult first on the approach to the question, the process, of the referendum. We then have to make sure that parliament has adequate opportunity to legislate. If we were to cut any corners in the legislative process, I’m sure I would be on this programme answering questions about jiggery-pokery.”

That consultation is being carried out at Holyrood, but you have until 11th May 2012 to consider your answers to that.

However, the deadline for responses for the UK government is earlier that the real consultation – Friday 9 March 2012. You can respond by letter or e-mail to:

Referendum Consultation
Scotland Office
1 Melville Crescent
Edinburgh
EH3 7HW
email: reply@scotlandoffice.gsi.gov.uk

I responded as follows – note my answer to questions 6-9. I think this especially worth saying to the UK government.:

1. What are your views on using the order making power provided in the Scotland Act 1998 to allow the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a legal referendum in an Act of the Scottish Parliament?

The Scottish National Party made clear several years ago that they would hold a referendum on independence for Scotland after winning two elections in a row. Prior to the May 2011 election, Alex Salmond amplified this – that if the SNP won, the referendum would be held in the second half of the coming term of the Scottish Parliament. No other political party committed to holding a referendum. The SNP won the 2011 election and secured a majority in the Scottish Parliament. They therefore have a clear democratic mandate to hold the referendum, which should naturally be legislated and run from Holyrood, by the Scottish Parliament.
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