Sun 24 Mar, 2019

Cass Macgregor

The Scottish Green Party promotes women's empowerment and gender equality and sees this as inextricably linked to action on social and environmental matters. This means we actively encourage women to put themselves forwards as candidates for elections where we get the opportunity to speak out about our policies, from climate change to abortion rights. I decided to meet up with a couple of fabulous former Green candidates, Lorraine McLaren and Gill MacDonald, from Glasgow to chat about what it was like.

See below for our glossary of terms to read definitions of some key phrases used in the interview

Cass: Back before you were a candidate, can you remember what it was that made you decide to put yourself forward?

Lorraine: A couple of people suggested it to me. I hadn't thought about it before that but then I thought about what was important to me and realised it would be better if I could be part of it.

Gill: I wanted to do it but didn't feel brave enough to be a target candidate. I thought I could dip my toe in by standing in a non-target ward, taking a supportive role...and then the by-election came along!

Lorraine: What about you?

Cass: Well, I first stood at the General Election in 2015, basically because we had gender quotas and only 1 other woman was standing! I agree with gender quotas so I decided to do it myself. Looking back it was a bold move. On my first day I’d ever taken part in a hustings, I had to do it twice! One was in a homeless shelter and the next one in a bar in the Merchant City (which was absolutely packed) with Bernard Ponsonby chairing. It was a baptism of fire, but the boldness has carried over into other aspects of life now and I’ve made myself do things I never would have before.

Lorraine: I agree about the boldness. I remember on the day of the count for the council elections I agreed to be interviewed on TV and before I would never have done that or thought I could.

Gill: Yeah, I notice I'm definitely up for more public speaking at work now. It doesn't faze me as much.

Cass: So, Gill, you were a 'non target' candidate. What was that like?

Gillian: I thought it meant I supported a target candidate, but I did more than that. I was out quite often with Allan in his ward as he was the closest target candidate. It was difficult as I felt a pull to do things in my own ward. I still did hustings that came up in my own ward and I think it would have been good to have more support for that.
Lorraine: Yeah, it was probably quite different being a target candidate as I felt we had a good support network and it felt like a team. It was a lot though. It was good to influence things but it is a commitment as I was away from the family a lot at weekends and in the evenings. In a way it was a relief after the election not to have to go out campaigning, but after a break I was ready to get involved again..

Cass: Yes, it didn't take you too long to be involved as Vice-Convenor on Committee!

Gill: Yeah, I can see support with childcare would be important.

Cass: So although you didn't get elected, is there anything you think you gained from the experience of being a candidate?

Gill: It increased my confidence in public speaking. I feel more confident in myself. If I have a problem with a neighbour now, I go and chap their door. It reaffirmed why I'm a Green. I made this many people vote Green. Maybe just through hustings or Twitter but small ripples can make big waves.

Lorraine: I agree in terms of confidence with the media, saying 'yes' but also, it makes me feel clear about why I'm a Green. On a couple of occasions I had people saying 'You know, I thought about what you were saying,and I voted for you'. Changing views... I mean how often does that really happen?

Gill: I remember one hustings, I was the only women on a panel and I held my own. One woman said to me 'I like what you said and I voted Green' but I never could have done that before.

Cass: So SGP have a quota of having at least 50% women candidates at election. What do you think about that?

Lorraine: I'm in total support, but it's not enough just to have a quota. There needs to be more support for the women candidates.

Gill: And more media coverage of the women. Yes, we need more women but also, not at the expense of others who form our wonderful green rainbow.

Cass: Agreed, and that's a good phrase! So what advice would you give to others thinking about putting themselves forward?

Gill: Do it, but be selfish and put your own life ahead. Don't be put off, and go for the top of the list. We need new ideas.

Lorraine: Do it, and be clear on the expectations of the party as well as your own expectations of yourself. Don't hold back on seeking experience and advice and asking other people about stuff.

Gill: Yeah, definitely asking for help.

Lorraine: And checking in on a regular basis.

Next up, I'm planning to chat to a couple of our women councillors about their experience and advice.
 

 

Glossary of Terms

 

Additional member system

 

This is the name of the voting system used to elect MSPs to the Scottish Parliament. It can also be called ‘AMS’. When people vote using AMS, they get two votes:

  • The first vote is for the MSP they want to represent them in their local area, or ‘constituency’
  • The second vote is for the political party they want to represent the wider region that they live in (for example, West Scotland).

AMS allows for proportional representation. This means that the number of seats a party gets matches the amount of votes that were cast for them.

 

Agent

An agent is a person who helps those standing for election. They might help by:

  • Running their campaign
  • Organising volunteers who can offer help
  • Keeping track of the money being spent on the campaign
  • Keeping all the paperwork in order

 

Ballot

This is another word for a vote.

 

Ballot box

This is a sealed box with a slit in the lid, into which voters place their ballot papers. After the close of voting on election day the sealed boxes are taken to be counted.

 

Ballot paper

This is a piece of paper that lists the names of all the people who are standing for election. Voters usually mark their choice with a cross.

 

By-election

This is an election that takes place because the current MSP, MP or councillor has resigned or died. The by-election gives people a chance to vote for someone new.

 

Candidate

This name is sometimes given to a person who is putting themselves forward to be elected.

 

Canvassing

During a campaign, supporters of a party ask voters who they will vote for and try to get support for their own candidates. This usually involves knocking on doors to talk to people about the vote.

 

Constituency

This is the name given to the area where one MSP or MP is elected using the first-past-the-post system.

 

Councillor

Councillors are people who have been elected to speak up for local people at their Council (for example, Glasgow City Council).

 

Counting agent

These people are given permission to go to the an election count. They might try to help their candidate by:

  • Offering moral support
  • Watching out for any errors in the count
  • Learning more about how many people are voting for different candidates (This could help them to plan better for the next election).

 

Deposit

This is the sum of money (£500) paid by candidates or their parties to be allowed to stand as a constituency MSP or MP. It is given back if the candidate wins 5% or more of the votes.

 

Election expenses

This is the money spent during an election campaign. This could be spent by:

  • Candidates
  • Their agents
  • Activists in the party
  • The party itself

It is the job of the agent to keep a record of all the money that is being spent.

 

Electoral register

This is a list of everyone who can vote. It might also be called ‘the electoral roll’.

 

First past the post

This is the name of the voting system used to elect MPs to the House of Commons. When this system is used, the candidate who gets the most votes is elected, and the rest of the votes are not used. It means that smaller parties do not get their fair share of places.

 

Hustings

This is an event where each party’s candidate comes to debate their point of view with other candidates. All the candidates are usually given time for a short speech, and then there is a chance for people to ask questions.

 

List member

This means the same as ‘regional MSP’. Regional MSPs are elected to the Scottish Parliament under the Additional Member System.

 

Manifesto

This is a document that lets everyone know what ideas a political party has, and what they would do if they were elected to power.

 

Member of Parliament (MP)

This is a person elected to the UK (Westminster) parliament to represent the people in their constituency.

 

Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP)

This is a person elected to the Scottish Parliament to represent a constituency or region.

 

Nomination papers

This is the paperwork that must be returned (usually to council offices) to allow someone to become a candidate for election. The paperwork must be returned by hand.

 

Party Election Broadcast (PEB)

This is when a political party pays to share a message on TV or radio. Each party is allowed a certain number according to the number of candidates put forward.

 

Poll

This is another term for a vote or election.

 

Polling agent

This is a person given permission to enter a polling station to help a candidate. They can help by letting the candidate know how many people showed up to vote. This is different from when people stand outside a polling station to hand out leaflets. No permission is needed to do that.

 

Polling day

This means the same thing as ‘election day’. It is the day when people vote.

 

Polling districts

These are smaller areas within a ward. They are each given a polling station.

 

Polling place/station

This is the place where people go to cast their votes.

 

Postal vote

People unable to get to a polling station are allowed to vote by post if they apply in advance.

 

Proxy vote

People unable to get to a polling station can choose someone to vote on their behalf if they apply in advance. This is called a ‘proxy vote’. They are also allowed a postal vote.

 

Region

This is a bigger electoral area which contains several Scottish parliamentary constituencies. For example, Glasgow West is a region. Within Glasgow West, there are different constituencies (including Glasgow Cathcart, Glasgow Kelvin, Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn).

 

Regional member

An MSP elected to represent people in 1 of the 8 electoral regionsin Scotland.

 

Returning officer

This is the person in charge of overseeing elections. The returning officer in charge of a local authority’s councillor elections will also be in charge of the other parliamentary elections in that area.

 

Single transferable vote (STV)

This is the electoral system used by Scottish councils where voters rank the candidates in order of preference. For example, they might vote ‘1’ for their favourite, ‘2’ for their second choice and so on. Under this voting system, candidates don’t need a majority of votes to be elected.

 

Spoiled ballots

These are ballot papers which haven’t been completed in the correct way. The returning officer has the final say over whether a vote that hasn’t been marked with a single cross is allowed.

 

Tactical voting

This is when people do not vote for the party they like best, but vote in a way that they hope will make sure the party they don’t like stay out of power. For example, someone might vote for The Purple Party because they want to help keep The Pink Party of power, but their real favourite might be the Orange Party.

 

Target seats

A target seat is one that a party believes it can win and puts a lot of effort into. For example, in Glasgow City Council the Greens put lots of effort into 11 seats with the best chance of winning, successfully getting a green councillor elected in 7 of them. This is also the plan that the Greens used to get Caroline Lucas elected in Brighton.

 

Turnout

This is the percentage of people who can vote in an election who did so. For example, if 1,000 people can vote but only 300 do it, the ‘turnout’ will be 30%.

 

Ward

This is one electoral area that is represented by 3 or 4 councillors. There are 32 local authorities within Scotland and each one had a different number of wards within it.

 

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