Scottish Labour Party Leadership Election Q&A
With the deadline in the race for the Scottish Labour leadership approaching next week, we put some questions on women's equality issues to candidates Richard Leonard MSP and Anas Sarwar MSP. Read their answers below.
To start off, complete the sentence ‘Women’s equality is important to me because…’
RL: As a democratic socialist I want us to build a truly equal and classless society in which everybody realises their potential.
AS: Women’s equality is important to me because our daughters, sisters and mothers deserve the same rights, chances and treatment as our sons, brothers and fathers.
Q1: What issues would you prioritise to advance gender equality in Scotland?
AS: I want equality in society across Scotland and will make ending the gender pay gap an economic priority.
That’s why I will establish a Scottish Labour commission to tackle occupational segregation in Scotland’s workplaces and the gender pay gap.
I will seek to improve legislation going through Holyrood to boost the number of women on public boards from 36 per cent by introducing non-compliance penalties.
Women have borne the brunt of Tory austerity which has slashed public services and eroded social security.
So I will ensure the Scottish Labour Party prepares gender audits of Holyrood legislation and press for a statutory requirement of gender budgeting across all policy areas to examine how spending decisions impact on both men and women.
I will take steps in this this Parliament to incorporate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) into Scots Law.
I want inequality to be a problem of the past, and will work to build a Scotland where everyone has the same opportunity in life, regardless of their social background, gender, race, sexuality or religion.
We must end the culture that sees gender inequality as the norm. This starts with the very basic of having a zero tolerance for violence against women and girls. Not only should Police Scotland be properly resourced and trained to tackle these crimes, but by extending the existing Hate Crime laws to specifically include Violence Against Women and Girls, we will aim to improve reporting and conviction rates, remove the sexual focus of abuse against women, raise awareness of VAWG and send a clear message that gender based violence should not be tolerated in Scottish society.
Q2: What action would you take to improve female participation and representation within your party?
As Scottish Labour leader I will:
- Implement at least 50:50 gender balance in all marginal parliamentary and council selections
- Deliver an annual women’s conference with policy making powers
- Continue to support and promote All Women Shortlists
- Invest in a talent academy which will focus on developing future candidates and activists who are women, BAME, LGBTQ+ and/or disabled not just when there is an election, but all year long.
I fully support the Women 50:50 campaign for equal representation of women in the Scottish Parliament, in our councils and on public boards, and I’d like to pay tribute to Kezia Dugdale for her work on this vital issue.
To ensure women are adequately represented in our party and the Scottish Labour leadership, I am proposing to deliver an additional deputy leadership role.
At least one deputy leader will always be a woman, regardless of the gender of the leader, and the two deputy leaders will play a key role in party campaigns and sit on the Scottish Executive Committee.
I support Scottish Labour Women’s Voice and wholeheartedly commit to the group’s five leadership election pledges.
That includes at least 50 per cent women candidates in all national and local elections, supporting and expanding the use of All Women Shortlists, ensuring there is a women’s representative on the Scottish Executive Committee, and holding a national Scottish Labour Women’s Conference every year.
We must also tackle sexism faced by women within the party and ensure there are real reporting mechanisms in place which take swift action. There must be a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment, and the culture must change at both Westminster and Holyrood.
Q3: Recently women in the Scottish Labour Party launched ‘Scottish Labour Women’s Voice’ with 5 key asks for gender equality. In 2017, why is this still needed?
The battle for gender equality continues. For as long as women are unequal and underrepresented in public life, then inequality will persist. That’s why campaigns like Women 50:50 matter - because that will lead to a gender-balanced parliament and therefore reflect the issues that impact on women in public life like access to lifelong learning, opportunities to return to work and playing a full role in the economy, the eradication of occupational segregation, and decent affordable and flexible childcare - among many others.
Quick fire Round (5 words max per answer):
Are you a feminist?
AS: Yes, and I’m bringing up my three sons to be feminists.
Do you support gender balancing mechanisms like
RL: Yes, and a culture change.
AS: Yes, including non-compliance penalties.
Should abortion be decriminalised in Scotland?
AS: I respect a woman’s right to choose. All women must have access to clinically-safe services and have control over their bodies and their treatment.
Who is your feminist hero?
RL: Both Mary Barbour + Jayaben Desai.
AS: My mother, for standing against society’s evils.
What shoes are you wearing?
RL: Black, shiny ones.
AS: That’s irrelevant, just like it was irrelevant when the media focused on Nicola Sturgeon’s shoes.
The results of the Scottish Labour leadership election will be announced on 18th November 2017.
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Equal Voice, Equal Power: The Case for Gender Quotas in Scotland Women have unequal access to power, decision-making and participation throughout all areas of public life in Scotland.
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