A senior north-east councillor has highlighted the intimidation and abuse of elected members at a conference in London.
Alison Evison spoke at the Local Government Association conference in Westminster yesterday to explain how safety is being improved north of the border.
The Aberdeenshire councillor, who is also the president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), told the Civility in Public Life Event how intimidation and abuse is “fundamentally undermining British democracy”.
But she hopes by tackling the issue that more women, younger people and those from different backgrounds will be encouraged to stand as elected members.
Councillors from across the country shared their personal stories of abuse as they go about their work as elected members.
After yesterday’s event, Ms Evison said: “The four local government associations from across the UK came together to jointly call for greater civility in public life.
“Without this, our democracy is being undermined.
“We heard stories from across the UK of councillors facing abuse as they go about their work of engaging with the public and of bullying and intimidation within different councils.
“We heard how this is impacting on councillors’ mental health and wellbeing.
“There was a call for compassion and kindness in public life.
“Every time a lack of respect is displayed the work we do as councillors becomes less attractive to those thinking of standing, which harms our democracy.
“It is crucial that we remove this barrier people find to elected office.
“We need to encourage more women, more people from different backgrounds and more younger people to stand for office.
“Female elected members receive significantly more abuse than their male colleagues and it differs in content, much of it being violent, anti-female vitriol.
“All of us in public life share a responsibility to call out unacceptable behaviours and to work to develop a culture of respect.”
Ms Evison said she “looks forward” to opportunities to work with partners across the UK to tackle the problem in the “coming year”.
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The Evening Express reported yesterday Ms Evison, Aberdeenshire’s only Labour councillor, has come out in support of a second independence referendum. She took to Twitter to make the announcement, arguing democracy has become “fragile” and must be strengthened again.
The conference examined the personal, local and national impact of public intimidation, the use of social media in abuse and disinformation, intimidation law and personal safety.
It also looked at how relevant organisations can show leadership in demonstrating civility in public life and how to prevent intimidation and abuse and provide support for those experiencing it.
A key priority for Cosla is developing the diversity of local elected representatives, addressing barriers and encouraging and supporting a wider range of people to come forward as candidates.
Women constitute just 29% of councillors, while 5.9% are under 29, with ethnic minority groups and those with disabilities also under-represented, Cosla reports.