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Smith Commission: problems and possibilities for women's equality

Scottish ParliamentThe Smith Commission website is as spare as a fledgling campaign website. It serves as an indicator of the hasty birth of the Commission itself; set up in a scramble following the independence referendum No vote.

Smith's purpose can't easily be aligned with its timescale. After a season of weighing the possibilities of independence, in which participation has flourished across Scotland, the brevity of the Commission's timetable means a return to the old ways. The political parties have already made their submissions, and civil society has only another couple of weeks to contemplate the powers it would see transferred to Holyrood and make its case. Awkwardly, the deadline for civil society submissions is the same as the date that the UK Government command paper will be published.

What will Engender be doing?

We're concerned about participation, and the need to include women in discussions about Scotland's future. We have co-signed a letter that the Electoral Reform Society has co-ordinated, which calls for a more substantive and participatory process. We are also aware that this call is unlikely to be answered, and so are proceeding as best we can to include the voices of our members and other women in our response.

We're concerned that any devolution increases the opportunities to deliver equality for women in Scotland. Our survey on the transfer of specific powers to tackle women's inequality attracted over a thousand responses before it closed. The responses on anti-discrimination law, a Scottish equalities regulator, employment law, employability, immigration, and abortion rights will inform our formal submission. A first draft of our submission will be shared with our members and other women's organisations from tomorrow.

Meeting the Smith Commission secretariat

We are also convening a small roundtable meeting which will bring women's organisations and women together with the Smith Commission secretariat. This is taking place on Tuesday 21 October, and any women are welcome to sign up to attend here.

We'll be doing our best to keep our members and women across Scotland up to date with what happens next.

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