Independent Women

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In the week we lost Margo MacDonald, the SNP finally, finally announced some breakthrough policies for women.

Call it politics, call it one-upmanship (sic), I don’t care. I’m pretty proud that now 40% of the Scottish Cabinet are women, which contrasts sharply with the Bullingdon Club Cabinet, which, after losing the unfortunate Maria Miller now has no Minister for Women.

Cameron’s forced reshuffle now means the three women in official cabinet posts are Justine Greening, the development secretary, Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland secretary, and Theresa May, the home secretary. Miller’s departure also means there are now just three women running government departments out of a possible 22.

Salmond focused on ‘women’s issues’ throughout the speech, contrasting Westminster’s investment in £100 billion in Trident 2 with the SNP’s plans for ‘transformative childcare’ which he rightly credited to the sadly deceased Professor Ailsa McKay.

Robin McAlpine of the Reid Foundation has recalled when Ailsa met the FM at the inaugural Jimmy Reid Lecture. He remembers:

“When the First Minister asked her to do some work on childcare economics her response was so typically Ailsa – “are you serious about doing this? If you’re serious about this policy, if you mean it, then I’d be delighted. But you have to mean it.”

It seems he means it, announcing today high quality universal childcare and early learning for all of Scotland’s children:

Transforming childcare will open up opportunities for many more women in Scotland. But our ambitions must go further.

An equal opportunity to join the workforce – and an equal opportunity within the workforce.

In an independent Scotland we will want our companies to aspire to at least 40 per cent female participation on their boards. And we will have the power to enforce the Equal Pay Act. This issue of equality, of equal opportunities, is of the highest importance.

True equality – rightly (and about bloody time) – is coming to the centre stage of the independence discussion.

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Promoting Shona Robison (Minister for Equality) and Angela Constance (Cabinet Secretary for training, youth and female employment) to the full cabinet wasn’t just a symbolic act, it allies the government practice with the policy.

Shona Robison has been doing a great job. I love her celebration of our athletes and our women sporting figures. Her twitter stream is full of the Scottish Women’s Football team.

Again – it contrasts with the Tory Sports Minister Helen Grant who suggested we need to get girls into sports through cheerleading so they don’t feel ‘unfeminine’ (‘Bungling Tory Sports Minister Helen Grant says girls should get into sport through CHEERLEADING‘).

An idea which – incidentally – had my teenage daughter practicing her shot-putt lobbing objects at the telly.

These announcements today are excellent and to be welcomed. But this mustn’t be just window dressing.

The childcare announcements, whilst welcome, must be properly funded and not just an excuse for low quality provision to help women into low quality, low-paid, temporary jobs. That’s not ‘trans-formative’.

We need to take this opportunity to begin to create innovative stimulating child care – and real equality in meaningful work for women. Let’s not rush people back to work for the sake of it – let’s create useful work in useful industry, and let’s value motherhood as well, possibly the most important job in the world.

The 40% rule is a significant and very welcome announcement, but I’ll wait to see the detail. But we don’t want equality in a corporate world we want to create a better society that throws off corporate values.

 

 

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  1. My feeling is that this is very definitely not window dressing. To have the kind of Scotland we want, with healthcare free to all at the point of use, no university tuition fees, provisions for our elderly to be properly cared for, and all the other items we want, the Westminster answer would be to raise taxes, but the Scottish Government believes it can accomplish this by growing the economy. And the way some Scandinavian countries have grown their economy is by the provision of excellent childcare which allows mothers to return to work when they wish. They need to be returning to jobs with prospects and jobs which are well paid for the tax take to justify the child care costs, and with the example now set of a target of 40% women on boards, this provides incentives for women.

    Bringing up children is a difficult and often frustrating occupation, as well as being rewarding, but I believe both mother and children benefit from a mother who is engaged and involved with the world outside the home. This adds an additional stimulus to the home environment which aids the development of children.

    1. tartanfever says:

      This is exactly what i find bizarre. If the polls are to be believed and women are currently favouring Westminster over Holyrood, then they obviously must prefer Trident over free prescriptions, or childcare, or uni education etc etc.

      It’s either that or the polls are wrong.

      1. Or women aren’t sufficiently engaged to know who offers what and are still on automatic pilot to vote as their father, mother, sisters, brothers, husband have always done.

        It still may not have dawned that this is not an election but a referendum, and there are a few people reporting that some folk are unaware what a referendum even is.

        But five months can accomplish much.

      2. David McCann says:

        Im not surprised that women are confused, when Lindsey Macintosh and Gary Robertson did their best to rubbish the SNP childcare policy, as uncosted on Politics Scotland today. Nary a mention of Prof. Ailsa Mackay as the one who researched and briefed the SG.
        Mind you no surprise as the same programme ran a ‘cartoon’ on defence in an independent Scotland as so cringe worthy, it could have come from straight from the No campaign.

  2. wanvote says:

    Welcome positive changes by SNP/SG but don’t stop there, will you. There’s the Constitution recommendations still to be discussed. A great opportunity to make changes for women and for children permanent and not subject to whims of political parties.

    1. Not a member of the SNP but understand that the SG is to publish before the summer recess a draft constitution for Scotland as a starting point for discussion. I hope, Wanvote, that you contribute to that. Perhaps Bella could post a few articles on constitutions to provide us with advice.

      1. wanvote says:

        I hope everybody is give the chance to contribute.

  3. Fay Kennedy. says:

    This is so uplifting. As a great grandmother and expatriate residing in Australia it’s an antidote to the lies and corporate greed that dominates this fair land which is far from fair.Scotland has a great opportunity to do things differently and women have to be courageous and that means speaking truth to power to each other. Sometimes we’re too polite. I’m one Scottish woman who is speaking up independence at every chance and to me women are being weak if they don’t take up the mantle.We should be united when it comes to the care of our children for that is where the grounding in better living begins.Come on lassies it’s our time.

  4. Crivens! I remember being present at Margo’s Valentine’s Day photo-shoot! 🙂

  5. JimW says:

    I’m all in favour of gender equality and applaud the government’s childcare plans, but to achieve true equality by regulation the rule must be that companies should aspire towards having a maximum of 60 percent of either gender in their workforce. Anything else ignores the fact that there are two genders entitled to equality.

  6. bellacaledonia says:

    This posted on Twitter … Women in cabinet across the world: Sweden 52%, Switzerland 50%, Scotland 40%, Belgium 38%, Germany 37%, USA 36%, United Kingdom 13% #SNP14

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