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Scotland's Programme for Government - what's in it for women?

In the past week there’s been a slight autumn chill in the air in the mornings, and a pleasing back-to-school vibe in genderland that speaks of newly sharpened pencils and fresh notebooks.

Autumn is a season of new beginnings, as well as mellow fruitfulness, and the last few days has seen the launch of Scotland’s Programme for Government as well as Engender’s own Gender Matters Roadmap.

Everything you need to know about the gender commitments in the Holyrood 2016 manifestos

Nina Murray holding a gender matters in Holyrood sign

With Scotland going to the polls on Thursday, it is an exciting week for the political nerds amongst us. At Engender HQ we will be eagerly number crunching the proportion of women returned as MSPs and mapping the outcome in terms of pre-election commitments to women’s equality.

Of course, now that all political parties have released their manifestos, we already know what is on the table. Last week we published this detailed gender summary of promises from the main political parties, in relation to our own Gender Matters manifesto and other directly relevant issues for women.

On the whole we are pleased to see a range of gender equality issues addressed by the majority of parties. Unsurprisingly, some of our calls remain missing, especially where these are radical or structural in nature, but there are a number of notable highlights.

Gender Equality Bill

We called for a Gender Equality Bill to drive gender issues up the political agenda and create accountability in areas where the pace of change has been incredibly slow. Scottish Labour, the Scottish Greens and the Women’s Equality Party have all committed to publishing such a Bill over the course of the next parliament, with RISE including an Anti-Sexism Bill as one of its big ticket policy items.


With relevant powers reserved to Westminster, political parties themselves are currently ‘gatekeepers’ to equal representation in Scottish politics. It’s therefore very heartening that the SNP, Labour and Greens have used their manifestos to formally back the Women 50:50 campaign. The campaign (and Engender’s manifesto) calls for measures to ensure that women are 50% of candidates in national and local elections, and 50% of public board members. Power to set gender quotas for public boards is coming to Holyrood, and both the SNP and Greens have committed to legislation that would set these at 50%.

Challenge Poverty Week: Women's employment support

This week is challenge poverty week, so it’s a great chance to look at a whole host of issues which affect women. One huge factor which pushes and keeps women in poverty is access to jobs, and the employment services which support women into work.

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Related publications

Gender Matters in Social Security: Individual Payments of Universal CreditGender Matters in Social Security: Individual Payments of Universal Credit A paper calling on the Scottish Government to automatically split payments of Universal Credit between couples, once this power is devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Gender matters manifesto: twenty for 2016Gender matters manifesto: twenty for 2016 This manifesto sets out measures that, with political will, can be taken over the next parliamentary term in pursuit of these goals.

Scottish NGO briefing for UN special rapporteur on violence against womenScottish NGO briefing for UN special rapporteur on violence against women Joint briefing paper for the UN Rapporteur on Violence Against Women.

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