The SNP and all Women Short Lists

The SNP will this weekend at their Spring Conference debate the issue of all women shortlists for candidates to Holyrood; with the power to implement this policy transferring to the NEC should they convince the party to vote for it. Nicola Sturgeon backs the proposal and noted:

“I think people should get on merit. The problem is that’s not what happens very often just now. If we had a system that was purely based on merit, we’d have gender balance because women are 52 per cent of the population, and unless you think that women are somehow less capable, then if we had a merit-based system we wouldn’t have these problems of under-representation of women.

“I do think we need to look at system-wide approaches to deal with that so we can one day get to a position where all of these decisions are entirely based on merit.”

I’ll be honest from the start, should this motion pass I will be considering resigning as a member of the SNP, and before anyone decides to hammer me as an old male dinosaur please hear me out.

First of all, all women short lists restrict the freedom of local party members to select the best candidate at the time of the election irrespective of gender. The best candidate should win the nomination based on merit alone. Of course there should always be equality of opportunity, where a persons gender, sexual orientation, background, colour, religion and age do not count as factors in restricting any person putting themselves forward as a candidate for election.

The media really don’t help and should stop focussing on women who are political reps and their shoes, that is demeaning and a part of the wider issue of how women are perceived in politics, all female short lists will not change that.

You also don’t end discrimination against women in political parties by discriminating against men.

A YouGov Poll in August 2014 found that 56% of the public oppose the principle of all women short lists. The poll also found that 51% of women also opposed them.

We should be working harder to get more women involved in political parties and leadership positions through their work and skills, not their gender. There is a risk that all women short lists not only demean women, but demean the position that they are standing for due to the suspicion that maybe they were not the best candidate for the nomination in the first place. I could possibly accept the 50 50 idea of equal gender lists, that could work and leaves a democratic choice.

I also wonder if all women shorts lists might even be illegal under European Law, the Equality Commission have certainly said as recently as July last year that in their opinion all women short lists are illegal under the Equalities Act 2010.

We should also make parliament more female friendly around the times it sits, child care options etc. I am also not denying that there is need for a greater balance of women, not just in parliament, but across all decision making structures from business to education etc.

But to deny myself, should I wish, the opportunity to put myself forward for nomination as a potential candidate based on the fact I’m a dude is just plain wrong, as I said above, you do not end discrimination against women in politics by discriminating against men and any argument of the greater good is just not good enough.

No doubt many might want to lynch me for my view but it is how it is. Should the party decide to follow the Labour Party down this road I will be seriously considering my membership of the SNP. I cannot be a member of a party that discriminates against anyone, no matter how much they might argue that it is positive, it is needed, it is unfair to be fair etc. I cannot and will not accept it, there needs to be another way and to be honest women need to be treated better than an all female short list in my opinion.



  1. jimnarlene

    It’s a tricky one this. Doesn’t matter what you say, you’re going to upset someone.
    I’ve always thought, “positive discrimination” was still discrimination. By it’s very nature you are excluding someone, from what ever, in preference to someone else.

    I don’t know if all woman shortlists, are the way to encourage women in to politics. I think making politics a grown up activity, instead of the play ground mentality of some; may make it more appealing. Better child care and timing of parliamentary sessions, may help.

    I don’t think resigning, from the party, will be a good idea. You cannot change the party from without, you have a voice within. It is entirely your choice, of course, but I hope you stay as I have rejoined recently due, in part, from reading this blog and others.

    • grumpyscottishman


      I am really against it, it s all the things I hate about political parties and it could be the start of the NEC consolidating power due to the high number of members. I will need to consider my position to be honest, maybe I’m not made to a member of a party, it takes a lot of discipline and singing from the hymn sheet, I don’t think I am cut out for that to be honest. I need to be able to speak my mind.

      Thanks for commenting.


  2. hektorsmum

    Hi Bruce, I am not sure I like it either but a wee story which may make this look a bit on the positive side or not. I worked in local government, I am a competent person, who fortunately or not as some people might see it, got promoted to a Supervisory position. Most women in Local Government seldom get even to that lowly position even if they are the most suitable whilst u can be about as lazy/stupid as you like as a man and as long as you belong to the right club or organisation, or go drinking with the right people you will get on. I am not even sure that those women who do get on and not because of positive discrimination, got on without some sort of intervention, I know that one we had in Human Resources was an idiot.
    Well I worked my butt off when my last boss decided he had got a better job, this said boss was supposed to sort out the situation with my office and staff, worked a load of overtime, none of it seemed to be concerned with the problems of the office. So when he left I spent many a sleepless night working out how to sort the problems he left. I managed, do not know how. I got temporary promotion and pay for two years. My reward was that there was one job available, I had a person who was working in place of someone else who had left needless to say a bloke and surprise surprise he played the same sports as the Big Boss. Well this job did not reflect what I did, it did him, I decided not to pursue it, and left him with an open door. The best bit was when he started telling me what to do. I told him to go to hell, took early retirement and never looked back.
    I would love to say that I thought positive discrimination would address these problems but it doesn’t and I think that the women in the SNP are there on merit. I would say that all the problems are caused by people who promote in their own image or peer group, how you overcome it I do not know.

    • Anonymous


      I totally accept that there are issues in certain areas, I am not denying that but you don’t address it by discriminating against men. I understand that the motion has passed this morning so I will need to consider my membership but I think I will resign my membership. Thankfully I haven’t had the time to get involved so I’ve not started any work so to speak.

      It’s interesting as I work within a local authority in CLD where most of the staff are female from the bottom to the top and talking in the office not one of my females colleagues were for this and one or two actually noted this will stop them getting involved. They pointed out that we can’t have it both ways, we tell young women that they should get to the top on merit, that they are of equal worth to boys of men, excel in many areas, and all of that correct but then we say to them that we are going to stop men standing for your local SNP so you can get on the list based on your gender, sorry but that is wrong.

      I wanted/want independence so that we can have an equal Scotland free from inequality based on gender, age, ability, colour, religion etc. This decision, if it has went through, takes the party backwards not forwards.

      Thanks for commenting as always.


  3. hektorsmum

    My Husband who was actively discriminated in his job, stuffed full of those people in that particular secret organisation that Hitler wanted to destroy raised a point, If there had been no positive discrimination for African Americans, they would have never got anywhere and there would still be the cry that they were inferior, the victim being blamed as usual.
    I think that there is a place where women should be pushed to take on things like political positions, one thing many of my sex has is opinions. I was asked way back in the late 80’s if I would consider standing as a Councillor. I was not in a position as I was not only working full time I was also a Shop Steward and had enough on my plate. I sometimes wish this had not been so.
    So I can understand though I have not always been in favour of all the things that the SNP have done or will do. I consider that they are for me the only game in town and I will continue to support them, every one for themselves I say.

    • Anonymous


      It’s not an easy one, I totally accept that and understand it. I am married to a black woman, my children are mixed race and my wife has experienced discrimination on the basis of her colour and she is not for all women shorts lists. I will need to get all the details on how it will work before I make a final decision, I just don’t agree with it. One of the interesting things though, my wife noted that when she lived in London she faced open discrimination every day but since living in Scotland for the last 10 years she has not experienced any racist incidents of any note.

      Thanks for commenting.


  4. bjsalba

    Not quite what was voted for by the membership. NEC can impose an all female shortlist but they can chose not to do so. Did you know that in the cases where there were women on the list a woman got selected 50% of the time? The problem is that there were a number of constituencies that had all male candidate lists (including the constituency I live in). I take it as a fairly unsubtle nudge to say we need female candidates on our list.

    • grumpyscottishman


      Thanks for that, been waiting to get the actual detail. Pete Wishart MP was tweeting all female short lists but I have learned that he has a tendency to get carried away. I’ll check it all out, if it is about a 50 50 balance then I can live with that but if anyone is excluded from standing on the basis of their gender, then I would resign. I just can’t stand that stuff, what’s next poor people only lists, right handed people only lists. I know that’s extreme but discrimination is discrimination and there are always those that it discriminates against and that is not the Scotland I would like to see.

      Thanks for commenting.


  5. Andrew Brown

    They say more of what doesn’t work, doesn’t work. People in authority promote in their own image and until and unless we break this vicious circle things won’t improve.

    As a man I’ve been discriminated against by other men, I don’t recall ever seeing a woman on any promotion board I attended. Perhaps if there had been then people like me who don’t care about your sex, where you went to school or your handshake may have gone on to sit on boards and promote in our image instead therefore hopefully advancing others on the basis of merit and nothing else.

    • grumpyscottishman


      I don’t think you stop discrimination by discriminating as someone always loses out, and if you have to give up your ideals around equality then what is the point of having any. I know there are no easy answers to this one, and like you, I faced discrimination in my youth regarding where I was from and how much money I had in my pocket so I recognise that it is still there. But I cannot accpet that to get more women involved in politics you have to discriminate against men, I have also met virtually no women who are for this at all.

      I don’t have the answers, other than supporting something like 50/50 lists, but I know that if it leads to one all female list and excluding men based on their gender I will not remain a member of the party, it’s not the Scotland that I want to live in.

      Thanks for commenting.


  6. adam591

    Many thanks for a thoughtful article. Like you I am waiting to find out exactly what has been passed at conference. What a ludicrous issue to raise at the GE campaign conference. I assume all candidates are already in place.

    I think you have this exactly right.

    • grumpyscottishman


      I have never liked this type of policy in any political party etc as it really is not the answer to gender inequality. I can understand having systems in place for all areas around gender, race etc but I much prefer a system like 50/50 interviews, and ensuring that systems follow the law. From women I speak to it feels like it’s more about encouraging more women to get involved and a process of rising to the top within a party will happen as more women vote for women . Maybe a bit simplistic but I suspect more honest.

      Thanks for commenting.


  7. Pingback: Is Political Correctness Going Mad! | Grumpy Scottish Man

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