Kezia Dugdale calls on all-male Scottish Parliament Corporate Body to resign
The former Scottish Labour leader has called for gender balance in the Scottish Parliament’s governing bodies
Kezia Dugdale - Image credit: David Anderson/Holyrood
Kezia Dugdale has called for the all-male Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) to resign and be replaced by a more gender balanced group in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal.
SNP minister Joe FitzPatrick has also called for changes to be made to the make-up of the Scottish Parliament governing body.
The Scottish Parliament Corporate Body oversees the running, staffing and finances of the Scottish Parliament.
It includes a representative from each of the political parties in the parliament as well as the presiding officer.
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Currently all five party representatives on the SPCB are male, as are the presiding officer, Ken Macintosh, and the chief executive of the Scottish Parliament, Sir Paul Grice.
In a letter to the SPCB, Dugdale proposes that the current group stand aside to allow a new gender balanced group to be elected, with women making up at least three out of the five party representatives to balance the fact the that the presiding office is male.
Dugdale said that she had “long held the view” that the gender make-up of the parliament mattered, but that events of the past two weeks had brought a “sharper focus” to the decision making bodies in the Scottish Parliament, the SPCB and the Parliamentary Bureau.
The Parliamentary Bureau, which is responsible for setting the Scottish Parliament’s daily business as well the remit and membership of parliamentary committees, is also made up of five male representatives of political parties.
The former Scottish Labour leader said that it was “no longer tenable” for these to be an all-male domain.
In her letter to the SPCB, Dugdale said: “Knowing most of you well – I have no doubt in my mind that is a view which you are likely to share or at least have sympathy with.
“I also fully anticipate that the answer to my corporate body question this week will be to state that the gender of each party’s membership of the SPCB is a matter for the political parties themselves and not for Parliament.
“I am therefore writing to you today to float an idea which I hope you and the presiding officers will consider seriously and facilitate if agreeable.
“Not because you aren’t doing a good job – but because the parliament simply cannot take a lead on issues of gender equality authentically and realistically with an all-male team in my view.”
The system Dugdale suggests would involve a ballot to determine which parties need to provide a female representative to the SPCB, with the others allowed to choose either male or female.
If the Lib Dems, who have no female MSPs, were picked to provide a female member, Dugdale suggests that they could pick a man, but then to compensate, all the female MSPs in the parliament could select an additional women to act as an adviser on equality issues.
The Scottish Government’s Minister for Parliamentary Business, Joe FitzPatrick, has also raised the possibility of a change to the parliament’s governing body.
In a letter to Ken Macintosh, FitzPatrick noted that the recent changes to Scottish Parliament standing orders require future nominations to take into account gender balance, but called for action in the meantime.
He said: “While that is helpful, I consider that we need to take more immediate action.
“This could be achieved either by changing the membership or by increasing the size of the SPCB from the current five members to allow a greater opportunity to broaden its membership.”
Over the last two weeks both Westminster and Holyrood have been hit by allegations of sexual harassment.
Children’s minister Mark McDonald has resigned after the SNP launched an investigation, saying his past behaviour had been “considered to be inappropriate”.
Labour MSP Monica Lennon also alleged at the weekend that she had been sexually assaulted by a senior politician at a party event.
Following a cross-party meeting last week, a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment was agreed by all parties.
A questionnaire is to be sent out to users of the parliament to gauge the extent of the problem, while a phoneline is also being set up to for confidential advice on the issue.
Nine questions from MSPs on the subject for sexual harassment have been scheduled for debate on Thursday, and in his letter FitzPatrick called for normal standing orders to be suspended to allow more time to discuss the issue.
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