Women make up 30% of candidates at next month's local elections

Tories ‘lag behind’ on gender balance for council elections

Fewer than one in six Scottish Conservative candidates in next month’s council elections are female.

Women make up 30% of would-be councillors overall, with 775 of the 2,550 candidates who are standing in the local government elections.

Female representation on councils has “flat-lined for decades”, according to campaigners at Women 5050.

While no party achieved a 50/50 gender divide amongst its candidates, Women 5050 said the Tories “continue to lag well behind” in terms of the proportion of female candidates.

The group, which wants women to make up 50% of all councillors and MSPs, carried out its own analysis of the candidates who are standing for election to Scotland’s 32 councils on May 4.

In a “shocking” 21 wards, there are no female candidates on the ballot paper, it found.

The Greens have the largest proportion of female candidates, with women making up 45% of those running, while 41% of all SNP candidates are women.

A third (33%) of Liberal Democrat candidates are women, compared to 32% of Labour candidates.

Less than one in five (18%) of independent candidates are female, according to the research, while 17% of Conservatives who are running for election are women.

The highest proportion of female candidates are found in West Lothian and East Ayrshire, with 41% and 40% respectively.

In Orkney and Moray, just 20% of candidates are female, while in the Western Isles the proportion falls to 10%.

Talat Yaqoob, the chair and co-founder of Women 5050, said the figures show action is needed to increase the number of women on Scotland’s councils.

She added: ” Currently, only 25% of councillors are women. With only 30% women candidates in this election and a shocking 21 wards with no women on the ballot paper whatsoever, it is clear that we will not reach fair representation for women in 2017.

“It is time for rhetoric to be turned to action, and we must implement legislation for all parties to follow to make sure decision makers reflect the society they are meant to represent.”

Emma Ritch, executive director of the campaign group Engender, said: ” Having women in council chambers and around decision-making tables changes the conversation. It’s vital that councils making decisions about vital public services look like the people they are elected to represent.”

Dr Meryl Kenny, a politics and gender lecturer at Edinburgh University who is on the steering group of Women 5050, said: ” Levels of women’s representation in Scottish local government have flat-lined for decades.

“In 2017, we see the same patterns – some parties taking the issue seriously, while others like the Scottish Conservatives continue to lag well behind.

“It’s time to follow the evidence and take tough action through gender quotas to ensure 50/50 representation in our councils and Parliament.”

Scottish Conservative equalities spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “The Conservatives have had two successive female leaders, and two female prime ministers.

“Ruth Davidson is living proof that for women who want to get right to the top, the Conservative Party is the place to do exactly that.

“Our Women2Win campaign is all about encouraging more females into politics at all levels through the provision of mentoring and outreach work.

“This method means that underlying problems with organisational attitudes and infrastructure are addressed at their core.

“The Women2Win campaign has already shown to have worked at the UK level. Between the 2005 and 2015 general elections, women Conservative MPs more than tripled at Westminster.”

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