Gender imbalance in Scotland’s male-dominated Councils must be tackled

Jo is vice-chair of the Liberal Democrats’ Gender Balance Task Force

Jo Swinson MP has expressed concern that Scotland is lagging behind the rest of the UK in encouraging women to stand in local Government elections.

Speaking in the House of Commons today, Jo asked Minister for Women and Equality Meg Munn:

“Does the Minister share my concern that just 27% of Conservative Councillors, 29% of Labour Councillors and 32% of Liberal Democrat Councillors in the UK are women, with far fewer in some areas such as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? If so, what steps is she taking, and would she encourage others to take, to address this imbalance and encourage more women into local Government?”

The Minister replied:

“The Hon. Lady will be aware that we introduced the Act in 2002 to allow political parties to make their own arrangements in order to encourage more women to stand, both in local and national elections. The focus that we have taken is all-women shortlists and we are doing that in some local elections as well.”

Ms Swinson commented:

“In Scotland, women make up just 22% of all local Councillors, compared to a UK average of 28%. While the latter figure remains too low, it really is unacceptable that more work is not being undertaken to bring Scotland into line with this UK average.

“The issue of improving gender balance at Westminster has been high profile for some time. We must now complete this picture by adding local Government to the equation, encouraging and promoting women to stand as Councillors, particularly in Scotland.

“The Minister suggests that all-women shortlists are the best way to tackle under-representation of women. However, this ignores the fact that the Liberal Democrats have achieved the best record on getting women into Local Government without employing positive discrimination. If given support and training before they stand, plenty of women have the ability to gain election to Government at all levels on their own merit.”

• Percentage of women councillors by nation:

UK Total 28%

England 29%

Scotland 22%

Wales 22%

Northern Ireland 21%

(also for info London 31%)

• Percentage women councillors by party:

Conservative 27%

Labour 29%

Lib Dem 32%

Plaid Cymru 22%

SNP 25%

Liberal Democrats’ Gender Balance Task Force

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