Hey everyone As I look back on the election that has without doubt changed Scotland for good I have to say that my favourite memories of the campaign are memories of strong principled women who said what they meant and meant what they said. However it has to be said that though women have made progress in society at a general level. In politics particularly at the level where the real decisions are made there is still much to be done before women can say we live in the truly inclusive country we aspire to build. It is my hope that this election campaign has changed the way people think about women in politics and changed it for the better.
It didn’t matter where they came from or what party they supported, this was election when women’s voices were heard louder, prouder, and clearer than ever before. Whether it was the battles at First Minister’s Questions between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her opponents Labour’s Kezia Dugdale who was and is a far better ambassador for her party than her hapless, helpless, hopeless and now former leader Jim Murphy, or Conversative leader Ruth Davidson. Or the words of wit and wisdom from women like Elaine C Smith who I think I have seen more often than my own flatmate in the last three months it has been women’s voices which have been to the forefront of this election and that is the way it should stay.
I say this as a trans woman who has a very clear idea of the direction in which I want my country to travel. I am proud to be a member of the SNP and very proud to be a member of a great campaign team in which we gained a new member of parliament in Natalie McGarry who defeated one of the Labour Party’s most formidable members in Margaret Curran.
Ours was a campaign in which women featured prominantly. Our office manager Alexis Deans had a no-nonsense approach which helped get things done and May Findlay worked every hour god sent and a fair few more as well for the cause of our party and the election of our candidate. There were also fantastic contributions from two our younger members Laura Doherty and the force of nature that is the irrepresible and highly likable Morgan Horn.
The fact that Glasgow now has four female MP’s can only be positive for the cause of women’s equality and Carol Monaghan, Alison Thewliss and Anne McLaughlin will join Natalie as powerful advocates for progress as part of a powerful team of SNP Women.
Geographically this team of women cover the whole of Scotland. From Doctor Eilidh Whiteford and Kirsty Blackman in the North East, to Angela Crawley In the heart of Lanarkshire in Lanark And Hamilton East. From Hannah Bardell In Livingston to Philipa Whiteford in Irvine And Ayrshire Central. We could add any number of names such as Doctor Lisa Cameron in East Kilbride, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik In Ochil And South Perthshire, Derdrie Brock in Edinburgh North And Leith, Margaret Ferrier in Rutherglen And Hamilton West, Cori Wilson in Ayr, Patricia Gibson in North Ayrshire And Arran Kirsten Oswald in East Renfrewshire and Mhairi Black in Paisley and Renfrewshire South. The SNP have sent a strong group of women to be stronger for Scotland than those they replaced.
Also there are more female voices in the press than was previously the case. This is particularly true since the birth of The National last November which has given a column not just to established names such as Lesley Riddoch but has also given voices to the best blogger in Scotland in Kate Higgins, and provided space for Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik and Carolyn Leckie to air their fresh voices to the world. It should also be noted that this is the newspaper which has reported on issues such as women’s football to femicide in ways no other paper has dared.
There is no doubt that the independence referendum gave women on both sides of the yes/no debate the chance to air our views in a way unheard of in the past. This was a refreshing change from the old boys network which for so long had been as much a dominant factor in Scottish political life as it the broader UK context. The old boys network was not just confined to the corridors or indeed voting lobbies of Westminster and Scotland both yes and no, or for those who like to over simplify the issue nationalist and unionist was being forced to recognise this fact and indeed to address it and change the face of Scotland. Women’s voices would from now on be heard and they would be heard loudly, proudly, and clearly.
On the pro independence side of the debate one of the most vigorous groups to emerge during this period was Women for Independence. This group who comprised of members of all political groups and none showed what could, can, and will be achieved when women’s voices are heard in the cause of a common goal This group which started life on Facebook had long before September’s vote transcended into a national campaigning organisation which had and still has branches in every major city, town and geographic area in the country. It is a group of which I am very proud to be a member. A group which has vision of a fairer, more equal society where women and girls are given the same respect and value as their male friends, colleagues, and family members.
Having found our voice during the referendum campaign It was only natural that this would result in more women putting themselves forward as candidates at this election and that at least within the Scottish National Party is exactly what happened. I am delighted to say that due to the great result gained by my party that Scotland now has an army of talented women committed to fighting for fairness not only for Scotland but for our neighbours and friends throughout these islands. Among these women are three of my closest political allies, my local MP for Glasgow East Natalie McGarry, a women who will fight for my area and my rights with all she has and more, Alison Thewliss who won the Glasgow Central seat unseating the man who was once tipped as a future leader of the Labour Party Anas Sarwar , Anne McLaughlin who won the so-called unwinnable seat of Glasgow North East from Labour’s Willie Bain with one of the biggest swings of the night.
This election was as Kevin McKenna correctly said in his article for the Guardian just a few days before the vote an election where women were the real winners. This i believe is true no matter what side of the debate you happen to be on nor which party colours represent your values, views, and visions.
You see unlike the victory for Tony Blair and New Labour in 1997 in the class of women were not sexualised or objectified as the SNP won the landslide victory our party members worked so hard for Our women MP’s have not been labelled in the same way as the so-called Blair Babes The world has moved on since the days of the mythologised Cool Britainia as a trans woman I know this better than most. It is almost two decades since Blair’s first election victory and if you look at the narrative used to tell Blair’s story it was almost exclusively male and in my opinion incrediblely if unintentionally sexist based as it was on the story of Camelot and the legend of King Arthur. In the 18 years between the two elections women have made many social and economic gains however there is much more work to do to create a society fit for purpose for our daughters, nieces, and their friends.
As I said earlier in this post it was the independence referendum which gave the woman of our country the opportunity to express our opinions on the way forward for Scotland. Believe me when I say the woman elected to this the first post referendum parliament will not be afraid to voice those opinions. We have a country to change and we are going to do it.
Love And Best Wishes. Gayle X