**Archive of Women’s Pledge as published on 26 April 2021**
We want to see MSPs in the next Scottish Parliament commit to women’s rights. Please email your candidates and ask them to email us sign this pledge. Enter your postcode here to find the candidates in your area.
**Archive of Election Guide as published on 26 April 2021**
Voters will go to the polls on 6th May to elect Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs).
A total of 129 MSPs are elected and they debate and pass laws on devolved issues, which include health, education, transport, as well as some of the laws regarding tax and welfare – and the Gender Recognition Act. The UK Parliament at Westminster retains control over reserved issues such as defence, foreign policy, immigration, and equality legislation.
We have gathered together the following clips from TV and radio of Holyrood candidates being asked questions on women’s rights and self-identification issues. Please also see MBM’s Fact Check on the comments made by the candidates.
02 May 2021, Radio Clyde Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour
30 April 2021, Radio 4 ‘Any Questions’ with Jackie Baillie (Scottish Labour), Lorna Slater (Scottish Greens), Ivan McKee (Scottish National Party), Christine Jardine (Scottish Liberal Democrats) and Murdo Fraser (Scottish Conservatives).
Today @theSNP released their manifesto and, on the Gender Recognition Act, it was as bad as feared. Yes, there is obfuscation to mask intent, but intent is crystal clear. Especially if we judge the SNP by their record and all the things they have failed – and continued to fail – to address.
The manifesto commits to reforming the GRA while ensuring that it will not affect the rights or protections women enjoy under the Equality Act. But what, in reality, does that mean?
Currently, we are fighting the Scottish Government in the courts for their determination to redefine “woman” (EA2010 – female of any age) to include anyone and everyone who uses female pronouns who has a female name – whatever that might mean.
Women were at the Scottish Parliament on 6th April, with many others joining in from all over the country, to send a message to politicians one month before the election: do not take the votes of women for granted.
Women are voting with our feet over policies and laws that directly affect our lives.
The following video was made from a selection of the photographs that have been shared on Twitter with the hashtag: #WomenVotingWithOurFeet
When elected representatives do not listen to women, women will find a way to be heard. Meet the Scottish witches who have been out and about in Scotland defending women’s rights. They can also be found on Twitter under the hashtags #WomenWontWheesht and #DeedsNotWords.
We sent the following email to Baroness Kennedy, the Chair of the Misogyny and Criminal Justice in Scotland Working Group on 18th March 2021:
Dear Baroness Kennedy,
We are writing to ask if you would call on the Justice Secretary to use the powers of Hate Crime and Public Order Bill (Scotland) to add sex as a category now, before Parliament goes into recess and at least until the work of your group is concluded. While the argument for inclusion was made in Parliament last week, it was narrowly defeated on a whipped vote. Recent events have made this more, not less, pressing.
As you will be aware, last night, members of the House of Lords backed amendments to ensure that a trial in recording Hate Crime aggravated by a “hostility based on sex” was rolled out across England and Wales, to be informed by the successful Nottingham pilot. We understand you will be examining this trial in detail. It is concerning that, while Lord Bracadale based his recommendation to include sex in the Scottish Bill on the back of the findings from these trials, this was dismissed by the Cabinet Secretary.
The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey was also released this week: it shows a fall of 39% in overall crime in Scotland in the decade to March 2020 except for sexual offences against overwhelmingly female victims, which continue to rise. These figures do not account for lockdown, during which period we know crimes against women rose sharply.
When giving evidence to the Justice Committee many groups argued that adding sex would enable data to be collected and training undertaken. We believe that such data and findings would be valuable in informing the work of your group and potentially identifying those gaps in law which the Justice Secretary believes exist. In the event that your recommendation was to add sex, a vital year – and potentially longer – may be lost. We would add that while Mr Yousaf has pledged to abide by the findings and act swiftly, there is an election in May and he has no guarantee that he will be in a position to fulfill this obligation.
Adding sex now would reassure women worried about the potential loss of momentum. In light of all that has happened and information that continues to emerge, it may reassure women who feel, naturally, frightened and angry by the relegation of their safety by this administration, especially in light of the protection afforded to others. If women were visible in the current public information campaign on hate crimes it would both encourage women to report crimes and provide reassurance that such reports would be taken seriously, and send the vital message to perpetrators that such crimes will not be tolerated in Scotland.
We look forward to seeing the progress and the recommendations of the working group.
A copy of this letter has also been sent to Humza Yousaf, Cabinet Secretary for Justice.
Marion Calder, Trina Budge and Susan Smith, Directors on behalf of For Women Scotland
Update 24 May 2021: No response has been received.
Last year for International Women’s Day we held a fantastic demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Lockdown restrictions prevent us from doing similar this year, but we really wanted to get across the strength of feeling about the Hate Crime Bill and the detrimental impact it will have on free speech and women’s rights in Scotland.
So we are hosting a virtual demo instead! This is our message to our politicians that Women Are Watching what is debated and voted on in Parliament on 10th March, even if we cannot be there in person.
Thank you to everyone who joined in and sent us photographs – a video compilation is on our YouTube and also shown here, along with all the photographs.
The following was sent to all MSPs on 7th March 2021. It can also be downloaded as a pdf here.
Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill Briefing for Stage 3, 10th March 2021
For Women Scotland (FWS) is a grassroots women’s rights group concerned with protecting and strengthening existing rights for women under UK and Scots Law. We have twice given evidence to the Justice Committee on the potential impact of the Hate Crime Bill on women, following consultation with our extensive network across Scotland. We have prepared the following briefing on the amendments proposed at Stage 3.
We should first like to highlight our concerns with regard to the process of consultation, especially in consideration of women’s rights. As a consequence of Parliamentary Questions lodged by Elaine Smith MSP on 5th February (refs S5W-35023 and S5W-35024) which concern consultation with women, we have written to the Permanent Secretary, Leslie Evans, this week asking how the Scottish Government attempts to comply with the Scottish Government Consultation Good Practice Guidance, in particular section 2B:
The Hate Crime Bill reaches the final stage in its passage through Parliament next Wednesday 10th March, when MSPs consider the final amendments and vote on whether the Bill passes into legislation.
Time is very short so we are asking for people to email their MSPs today to highlight outstanding concerns with the Bill and to press them to support amendments that will protect women and all our rights to free speech. We are calling for ‘sex’ to be added to Part 1 of the Bill and, since the freedom of expression protections remain weak, we are also calling for Part 2 to be scrapped.
Everyone has one constituency MSP and seven regional MSPs – they will all be voting next Wednesday so please contact all eight of them. To find out who they are and their email addresses just enter your postcode here. Remember to put your address at the bottom of your email so MSPs know you are in their constituency/region.
Please ask your MSPs to SUPPORT the following amendments on Wednesday: