Thu 10 Mar, 2016

James Mac

In the week that we celebrate International Women’s Day, we highlight the democratic deficit in Fife.

Among all the many celebrations of women’s achievements this week on social media, there was an undercurrent of disappointment and anger that we still have so much more to do. Nowhere is that more evident than in local politics, where women are grossly under-represented across the country.

Looking around Fife, we’ve had prominent women reach the very top of their field. Fife MSP Tricia Marwick is the Presiding Officer in parliament; Norma Graham was Chief Constable of Fife Constabulary from 2008 to 2012; and St Andrews University has recently announced that Professor Sally Mapstone will take over from Professor Louise Richardson as Principal. But for every high-profile success, there are thousands of fights still happening to ensure a level playing field for women. Just look at how Fife Council has treated 1400 women with outstanding claims for equal pay. Only now are they coming close to actually paying some claims that date back to 2006.

In the political world, our representatives on Fife Council aren’t really very representative at all of Fife communities. With just 23 women among the 78 councillors currently serving, that’s a paltry 29%. And 6 of our 23 multi-member wards across the region have no women at all elected as councillors. For a more eloquent explanation as to why this matters, see the Women 50:50 campaign, co-founded by Alison Johnstone, Lothians MSP for the Scottish Green Party. This week, Alison wrote about the need for more action to achieve gender equality.

At a local level, all political parties have to think about the way forward. It’s no good planning how best to engage women in the formal political process if that very process is broken beyond repair. If we want to achieve equal representation on community councils, public bodies and local councils, there has to be a fundamental rethink of how these entities operate, including structure, support, timetables and other fundamental aspects that we don’t question often enough. If we just carry on with ‘politics as usual’, we’ll only get more of the same.

For Fife Greens, it would be easy to point to recent events and say that we’re ahead of the game. We have a female co-convenor in Fife, and three of our last four by-election candidates were women. But the size of the challenge in local government means we need to work harder than ever to ensure that gender equality is not just a policy statement, but an inherent part of everything we do.

One of the stand-out successes of the referendum campaign was how Women for Independence took the political arguments to women in places where they were already gathering. In our campaign for Fife Council elections in 2017, we want to do more to mobilise our message and we’re asking ourselves where best we do that.

Given the current evidence, it would be easy to be pessimistic about gender equality in local politics, but Fife Greens are committed to a wholly inclusive council membership. We are energised to campaign for equal representation, and determined to play our part in challenging policy in the council chamber so that equality and justice are at the very core of future council decisions.

Get involved

More like this

No similar content