Gender Balance in the Scottish Liberal Democrats

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are asking for feedback on gender balance within the party, Willie Rennie has noted

“Twenty years ago our party agreed in the Constitutional Convention to work towards a gender balance in our Scottish Parliamentary representation. Yet, since the Scottish Parliament was created, we have elected no more than two women at the four elections to Holyrood.

Despite an abundance of talented women, we have been unable to put enough in positions to get elected. It is difficult to make the case for opportunity for everyone when only one of our parliamentarians is a woman”.

Now this brings in the possibility that the Liberal Democrats will follow Labour and in part the SNP in bringing in all women short lists. This is a policy that I have always disagreed with in any party and have blogged about it previously so I decided to respond to the consultation. Please see my response below, no I am not a dinosaur:)

Willie

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment on this issue.

First of all, in my opinion , 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 person’s gender, sexual orientation, background, color, religion and age do not count as factors in restricting any person putting themselves forward as a candidate for election. We should be working harder to get more women involved in political parties and in 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 accept the 50 50 idea of equal gender selection lists, that could work and leaves a democratic choice.

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 man is just plain wrong, 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 in my opinion.

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 and SNP down this road I feel that we will be making a mistake. I will struggle to justify this policy as a member of a party that appears to discriminate against anyone in the eyes of many potential voters, no matter how much they might argue that it is positive, it is needed, it is unfair to be fair etc. I will find it very difficult to 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. It’s not an easy issue to resolve, 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 also think that in this time of misguided austerity, of attacks against the poor and vulnerable, of students from poor to low middle backgrounds not being able to afford bus fares to college due to the poor bursaries offered in Scotland. To food banks, to the refugee crisis, to the middle east, to unemployment, to poor life chances and to the near wipe out of the Liberal Democrats at Westminster and I fear the impending disaster at next years elections this is just not a priority right now. Willie I left the SNP to follow my heart and my belief in my Liberal values, I joined this party because we need a Liberal voice in Government.

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4 comments

  1. jimnarlene

    Is this not the issue, that you left the SNP over?

    I don’t agree with single gender shortlists, either. People should be chosen, on their own merits, not on their gender, race, creed, colour or any other pigeon hole.

    Are they competent, articulate, able to do the job; these should be among the primary considerations for candidacy.

    • Anonymous

      Jim

      That is one of the reasons I left but it was mainly that I think of myself as a Liberal but either way it is a policy that discriminates, and discrimination is discrimination whatever way anyone wants to argue it. I have spoken to local party members and the general feeling is that it won’t pass even if it makes it to conference but I will be keeping a close watch on it. There is also a suspicion that Willie Rennie won’t be around anyway as the Liberal vote is going to be so low.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

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