Hustings for Women’s Equality: What are the priorities in the next Scottish Parliament?

This blog is posted by GWL’s Volunteering Programme Assistant Ren Clark on behalf of our volunteer Nadine Mumporeze.

On April 1st, 2021 Engender, in partnership with fourteen women’s organisations across Scotland, organised the Hustings for Women’s Equality event where different party leaders of all political parties currently represented in the Scottish Parliament were invited to present their priorities for women in the next Scottish Parliament and to answer different questions from participants. The parties were represented by the following spokespeople:

  • Nicola Sturgeon – Scottish National Party
  • Jackie Baillie – Scottish Labour Party
  • Rachael Hamilton – Scottish Conservatives
  • Willie Rennie – Scottish Liberal Democrats
  • Lorna Slater – Scottish Green Party

What are the priorities in the next Scottish Parliament?

In the next parliament, the Scottish Green Party vowed to:

  • Ensure that the work women do is recognised, valued, reworded, and supported.
  • Tackle violence against women and make sure that all survivors of sexual abuse are supported.
  •  Extend abortion rights by removing two doctor rules.
  • Protect and extend the rights of transgender women and non-binary siblings.

In the same line with the Scottish Green Party, the Scottish Conservatives Party will also work to ensure that all domestic violence is tackled as the latest statistics shows that the number of domestic abuse charges are extremely high since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

As for Scottish National Party, the key concerns in the next Scottish Parliament will be to:

  • Make sure that all women’s work including social care are better valued.
  • Continue to take action to reduce the gender pay gap.
  • Do more to support women who want to set up businesses and reduce the financial burden for women during key points in their life. One of the proposals is to suspend the interest on student loan repayment during maternity leave.  
  • Have a comprehensive women’s health plans so that they have greater understanding and awareness of endometriosis as well as better diagnosis and medical support to abolish services.
  • Tackle violence against women until Scotland becomes a safe place for women and girls.  
  • Increase investment (up to £100 million funding stream for three years) to focus on prevention and supporting frontline services to reduce the time that women and girls’ who are victims of sexual abuse must wait while seeking support.

Regarding the Scottish Liberal Democrats Party, in the next parliament they will make sure that women have the same right to feel safe and to be safe as it is horrifically clear that many women do not have the same privilege. The Liberal Democrats Party’s priority will also be to have a new commission on violence against women and girls with that cross party backing. In addition to this, Liberal Democrats’ politics will be much better for all women including women of colour.

In agreement with other parties’ priorities, the Scottish Labour Party will work to address structural inequalities and occupation segregation emphasized by the COVID pandemic. Better valuing women in terms of pay is very much at the heart of what the Scottish Labour Party wants to do.  Besides, this party wants equal pay audits for all public sector organisations and private companies who provide public services through procurement.

Participants’ Questions

Participant’s questions covered different themes including women’s labour market equality, the gender pay gap, strategies to stop sexual violence and women’s representation in parliament and leadership positions.

Women’s Labour Market Equality and the Gender Pay Gap

All parties shared the same view with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that in their first parliamentary year they will work to improve women’s labour market equality and close the gender gap, as she expressed in the following words:  

“We will make sure that women work is properly valued in the labour market. We will support and continue to support Equate Scotland which does a lot of good work around supporting in STEM. We need to support women to start businesses at the same rate as men do.  We will continue to put pressure on businesses to be transparent around their gender pay gap […]. We need to mainstream gender budget more so that all budget decisions are around what we spend on public services take account of the impact on women. I think particularly coming out of Covid, we need to redress some of the imbalances that have been exacerbated”.

The Liberal Democrats Party and Scottish Labour Party spokespeople added that pay audits in government at all different levels is needed also to improve women’s equality in the labour market and to close the gender pay gap.

Strategies to Stop Sexual Violence

In the same vein as the Scottish National Party, each party agreed that the following strategies are central to stopping sexual violence:

  • Educating men and boys about how they should behave to stop sexual violence.
  • Promote a culture and environment where women can speak up about what is acceptable and what is not, and for there to be genuinely zero tolerance of sexual violence.
  • Improve the management of rape and sexual assault cases by taking into consideration the recommendations of the recent review chaired by Lady Dorrian.
  • Make sure that all victims of sexual abuse have legal aid.

Furthermore, the Scottish Labour Party suggested that increasing public campaign through the media to challenge sexual violence and related attitudes should be another crucial strategy.

Women’s Equality in Parliament and Leadership Positions

At the centre of this, every party will make sure that all voices are heard and there is equal number of men and women candidates represented in the parliament. Alongside this, they will prioritize the inclusion of women asylum seekers and refugees – making sure that the next parliament is much more balanced and much more diverse.

All things considered, there is much agreement across political parties about what they plan to do in the next parliament in terms of women’s equality. Let us hope that this kind of agreement will continue into the parliament so that Scotland becomes more equal and safer place for women and girls.

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