Still Counting? Women and the 2012 Local Government Elections

Meryl Kenny (UNSW) and Fiona Mackay (Edinburgh)

In the run-up to the May 2012 local government elections, we argued that the face of local politics in Scotland was decidedly ‘male, pale and stale’, highlighting the fact that less than 1 in 4 council candidates and elected councillors were women. The announcement last week that parties are running yet another all-male candidate slate to contest the upcoming by-election for a seat on Moray Council – following the resignation of councillor Carolle Ralph (SNP) – raises serious questions as to whether the lessons of the 2012 elections have been taken forward, or whether, as the SPICe briefing on the elections notes, ‘little has changed’ in Scottish local politics.

This disappointing news provides an apt opportunity to revisit the results of the 2012 local government elections. We have now completed our full analysis of the election results and give headline figures below, as well as detailed gender breakdowns by local authority. A more detailed analysis of the results has been published in Holyrood Magazine and Scottish Affairs.

One thing remains clear: there is a need for more transparency and public accountability about each political party’s and local authority’s performance on women’s representation (as well as other marginalized groups). Despite the espoused concern from most Scottish political parties about women’s political under-representation, it is left to others to count women, because parties and councils don’t. Indeed, several political parties have asked for our data, as a gendered overview of this detail does not otherwise exist. There is no official requirement for the Electoral Commission, political parties or councils to collate or report on the gender (or ethnicity) breakdown of candidates and elected councillors. We have compiled these breakdowns ourselves, in what proved to be an often difficult and time-consuming process. Candidate information was obtained from the official Notices of Poll for each local authority. Where possible, the sex of the candidate was then confirmed using local media reports or party websites to compile gender breakdowns by party and local authority.  These figures were also confirmed with political parties (where possible), although only the Liberal Democrats and the Greens provided candidate gender breakdowns. The breakdown of male and female councillors was collated through analysis of the election results. Our figures have been confirmed by checking against the official council website profile for each councillor.

Publicity, through media reporting, and visibility, through the efforts of academics and campaign groups to ‘count women in’, appears to provide a spur to action for political parties. One way in which political parties and political institutions could be held to account would be to require them to ‘count for themselves’ and report their performance on a regular basis. The Westminster parliament Speaker’s Conference on parliamentary representation which reported in 2010 recommended that parties be required to report candidate gender and ethnicity breakdowns every six months (recommendation 25) and that parties should publish a gender/diversity breakdown, together with targets (recommendation 26). There are calls for the Conference and its recommendations to be revisited – and expanded to or replicated by the devolved jurisdictions.[1] We argue that it is important that all political levels should be included: the public reporting by political parties, local councils and parliaments of the gender and ethnicity breakdowns of candidates and elected members would serve to keep the issue and party performance in public view.

We will be discussing these wider issues in greater depth at this week’s Women and Constitutional Futures Seminar: Gender Equality Matters in a New Scotland. For more details & to register, click HERE (there are still a few remaining places).

All Tables and Figures © Meryl Kenny and Fiona Mackay, unless otherwise stated.

HEADLINES

 

  • Fewer than 1 in 4 Scottish councillors is a woman. Women are 297 out of 1223 Scottish councillors elected in 2012 (24.3%).
  • Only one of the 32 local authorities in Scotland is led by a woman (Rhondda Geekie, Labour leader of East Dunbartonshire Council) – compared to 3 in 2007[2].
  • 136 out of 353 council wards in Scotland are only represented by men (38.5%). 4 council wards are only represented by women (1.1%).
  • There are just 17 ethnic minority councillors in Scotland[3] (1.4 per cent).
  • Disaggregated by party, women are (see Table 1):
    • 103 of 394 Labour councillors (26.1%)
    • 105 of 425 SNP councillors (24.7%)
    • 26 of 71 Liberal Democrat councillors (36.6%)
    • 28 of 87 Conservative councillors (24.3%)
    • 4 out of 14 Green Party councillors (28.6%)
    • 31 of 204 Independent/Other councillors (15.2%)
  • Only 5 of the 32 local authority councils have achieved levels of women’s representation of 30% or more: Aberdeenshire (33.8%), Glasgow (30.4%), Moray (30.8%), South Ayrshire (30%) and South Lanarkshire (34.3%). No council has achieved gender parity.
  • Inverclyde (previously an all-male council) lags at the bottom with only one woman elected (Vaughan Jones, Labour) out of 20 councillors overall (5%). Other ‘laggards’ on women’s representation are: East Lothian (2 women councillors, 8.7%), Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (3 women, 9.7%), and Orkney (2 women, 9.5%).
  • Over a third of all councils in Scotland have failed to break through the 20% barrier in women’s representation. In addition to those listed above, this includes Dumfries and Galloway (17%), East Renfrewhire (20%), Falkirk (18.8%), Midlothian (16.7%), North Lanarkshire (20%), Scottish Borders (17.6%), and Shetland (13.6%).
  • Women were fewer than a quarter of total candidates in the local government elections (23.4%). All of the major political parties fielded fewer than 30 per cent female candidates. Disaggregating by party, women were (see Table 3):
    • 136 of 497 Labour council candidates (27.4%)
    • 147 of 467 SNP candidates (23.9%)
    • 69 of 247 Liberal Democrat candidates (27.9%)
    • 94 out of 362 Conservative candidates (25.9%)
    • 35 out of 86 Green candidates (40.7%)
    • 103 out of 691 Independent/Other candidates (14.9%)
  • 1 in 7 council contests was male-only. Of particular note was Inverclyde Council, where only one woman stood out of 38 total candidates (2.6%)

  

CANDIDATE AND COUNCILLOR BREAKDOWNS

For further information, including detailed gender breakdowns by local authority and party, click HERE.

Table 1: Male and Female Councillors by Party 2012

Party Women Councillors Men Councillors Total Councillors Percentage Women(% 2007)
Labour 103 291 394 26.1%(17.5%)
SNP 105 320 425 24.7%(21.2%)
Liberal Democrats 26 45 71 36.6%(31.3%)
Conservatives 28 87 115 24.3%(23.8%)
Green 4 10 14 28.6%(50%)
Independent/Other 31 173 204 15.2%(20.8%)*
Total 297 926 1223 24.3%

*2007 candidate selection figures are taken from the Electoral Reform Society, which include the Greens in the Independent/Other category.

Table 2: Male and Female Councillors by Local Authority 2012

# Local Authority

Women Councillors

Men Councillors

Total Councillors

Percentage Women

 

1 Aberdeen City

12

31

43

27.9%

2 Aberdeenshire

23

45

68

33.8%

3 Angus

8

21

29

27.5%

4 Argyll and Bute

8

28

36

22.2%

5 Clackmannanshire

5

13

18

27.8%

6 Dumfries and Galloway

8

39

47

17%

7 Dundee City

6

23

29

20.7%

8 East Ayrshire

8

24

32

25%

9 East Dunbartonshire

6

18

24

25%

10 East Lothian

2

21

23

8.7%

11 East Renfrewshire

4

16

20

20%

12 City of Edinburgh

15

43

58

25.8%

13 Falkirk

6

26

32

18.8%

14 Fife

22

56

78

28.2%

15 Glasgow

24

55

79

30.4%

5 Highland

21

59

80

26.3%

17 Inverclyde

1

19

20

5.0%

18 Midlothian

3

15

18

16.7%

19 Moray

8

18

26

30.8%

20 Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

3

28

31

9.7%

21 North Ayrshire

8

22

30

26.7%

22 North Lanarkshire

14

56

70

20%

23 Orkney

2

19

21

9.5%

24 Perth and Kinross

10

31

41

24.4%

25 Renfrewshire

11

29

40

27.5%

26 Scottish Borders

6

28

34

17.6%

27 Shetland

3

19

22

13.6%

28 South Ayrshire

9

21

30

30%

29 South Lanarkshire

23

44

67

34.3%

30 Stirling

5

17

22

22.7%

31 West Dunbartonshire

6

16

22

27.3%

32 West Lothian

7

26

33

21.2%

  TOTAL

297

926

1223

24.3%

Table 3: Male and Female Candidates by Party

Party

Women Candidates

Men Candidates

Total Candidates

Percentage Women

(% 2007)

Labour

136

361

497

27.4% (20.3%)

 

SNP

147

467

614

23.9% (22.0%)

 

Liberal Democrats

69

178

247

27.9% (31.4%)

 

Conservatives

94

268

362

25.9% (25.3%)

 

Green

35

51

86

40.7% (39.0%)

 

Independent/Other

103

588

691

14.9% (N/A)*

 

Total

584

1913

2497

23.4% (22.8%)

 

*2007 council figures are taken from Denver and Bochel (2007) who disaggregate Independents and Others.

Table 4: Male and Female Candidates by Local Authority

# Local Authority

Women Candidates

Men Candidates

Total Candidates

Percentage Women

 

1 Aberdeen City

29

83

112

25.9%

2 Aberdeenshire

39

90

129

30.2%

3 Angus

17

33

50

34.0%

4 Argyll and Bute

17

61

78

21.8%

5 Clackmannanshire

11

19

30

36.7%

6 Dumfries and Galloway

16

66

82

19.5%

7 Dundee City

12

50

62

19.4%

8 East Ayrshire

12

39

51

23.5%

9 East Dunbartonshire

12

33

45

26.7%

10 East Lothian

8

36

44

18.2%

11 East Renfrewshire

8

32

40

20.0%

12 City of Edinburgh

30

97

127

23.6%

13 Falkirk

11

42

53

20.8%

14 Fife

46

116

162

28.4%

15 Glasgow

53

172

225

23.5%

16 Highland

40

130

170

23.5%

17 Inverclyde

1

37

38

2.6%

18 Midlothian

9

32

41

21.9%

19 Moray

14

33

47

29.8%

20 Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

5

58

63

7.9%

21 North Ayrshire

17

52

69

24.6%

22 North Lanarkshire

22

104

126

17.5%

23 Orkney

8

38

46

17.4%

24 Perth and Kinross

21

57

78

26.9%

25 Renfrewshire

18

62

80

22.5%

26 Scottish Borders

16

56

72

22.2%

27 Shetland

5

38

43

11.6%

28 South Ayrshire

14

30

44

31.8%

29 South Lanarkshire

35

103

138

25.4%

30 Stirling

9

36

45

20%

31 West Dunbartonshire

12

33

45

26.7%

32 West Lothian

17

45

62

27.4%

  TOTAL

584

1913

2497

23.4%

 


[1] Engender (2011) Quotas in the Scottish Parliament: Engender’s Position. Statement prepared for the Festival of Politics 2011. Edinburgh: Engender.

[2] Lisa Beattie (SNP) was initially elected as leader of Midlothian Council, but resigned in June 2012 and was replaced by Bob Constable (SNP).

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4 Responses to Still Counting? Women and the 2012 Local Government Elections

  1. Pingback: Why hasn’t women’s representation ‘caught on’ in Scotland? | Gender Politics at Edinburgh

  2. Pingback: Women in Scottish Politics: Travelling the Distance | Gender Politics at Edinburgh

  3. Pingback: In Defence of Lovenduskianism | UK PSA Women & Politics Specialist Group

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