I’m probably quite well
recognised for my strong feelings about women/gender in society – at
work, at home, at leisure, in relationships, on company boards or as
community workers say. Regular readers will have seen plenty of evidence
that I get frustrated by stereotypical attitudes and sometimes downright
I’m depressed and discouraged by media that promote
the biggest chainsaws and the loudest cars between – or sometimes with -
images of sexualised impossibly thin women.
But I’m also the more
enthused and delighted when I see women speaking up and out for
themselves. We’re not one big autonomous group any more than men are. We
aren’t just interested in being mothers, having a good health system,
the state of our schools and maternity leave.
We are interested in
exactly the same range of subjects and sectors that men are and respond
just as strongly to the policy decisions we support or condemn. Women
don’t want to be perceived in some kind of special, separate, virtual
reality. We want to be recognised and respected as equal members of
society, no more and no less.
I put a question to
the First Minister at FMQs last week (24 April) asking what the
government is doing to help close the gender equality gap. You can see
the session here:
University of the
West of Scotland
So having the
opportunity to introduce probably our best known Scottish woman of all,
Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister, to a lecture room full of
interested but undecided voters was fantastic.
The venue was the
campus of the University of the West of Scotland in Hamilton, in my
constituency. Don’t imagine for a moment that it was all students. Far
from it; I didn’t spot more than perhaps ten. The demographic was far
wider than that. There were some children along with their parents and
plenty of pensioners plus every age and ilk between. Plenty of women,
I’m glad to say, and I wanted to encourage them to ask questions.
About a third of the
200+ people there described themselves as ‘undecided’ on the vote early
on. By the end, on a card poll, the balance had shifted to 75% in favour
The questions covered
everything from nursery schools to pensions, health to engineering, the
military to passports, and Nicola answered 31 of them during that two
National Union of
Students Women’s Conference
What an exciting,
engaged, no holds barred bunch of women at this event. On Saturday last,
I was hugely impressed by the 80 or so women students from colleges and
universities across Scotland who attended.
Stacey Devine, who is
NUS Scotland Women’s Officer, says: “Our Conference is committed to
providing women a respectful, safe space in which women can plan
campaigns, celebrate feminism and have their voice heard. Women’s
Conference is the only space in the year where women aren’t silenced.”
Stacey Devine, NUS
Scotland Women’s Officer
Let me sound a word of
warning here that returns to my earlier comments: there were a bunch of
individuals who tried to hijack the Conference hash-tag by posting
disrespectful, hateful, racist, homophobic, misogynist, even inciting
race and sexual violence comments on Twitter. This isn’t just vile
behaviour. It’s intimidating, threatening and abusive.
But while all of that
certainly emphasised the critical importance of challenging this kind of
behaviour in the public domain, it also highlights just what a power
base women in Scotland have.
The Conference was
filled with women who are committed to building a better, fairer, more
compassionate society. They were animated by a real spirit of purpose
and drive. They’re some of the folk that are going to make an
independent Scotland a fantastic place to be.
Good news for local
I was thrilled to bits
to hear that Stonehouse Old Folks Welfare Committee has been given a
The grant, paid under
the Big Lottery Fund Awards for All scheme, will allow the committee to
hold a series of eight social events during the afternoon or evening.
Older folk will be invited to live music and song, dancing, talks, films
and bingo plus an outing to the seaside.
This kind of award
means that a smaller, community based group gets the chance to a share
of the cake. That makes an enormous difference to people’s quality of
life and it means that local projects get an injection of cash that
allows them to have events they couldn’t otherwise afford.
I put forward a motion
in the Scottish Parliament congratulating the Committee on the award
which lots of MSPs supported. I think everyone loves to see elderly folk
enjoying the opportunity to have some special entertainment.
And the young folk too
I thought I might be
in for an easy ride when I met us with a group of primary school
children at the Scottish Parliament. I’d invited the kids from
Chatelherault along to see the building, have a tour around it and find
out a bit more about just what goes on in here.
Well, I thought,
they’re only young. They’ll ask me straightforward questions about how
many hours I work and what I do at lunchtimes.
How wrong I was!
If these 10 to 11 year
olds are typical of Scotland’s children, then we’ve an even better
future than I’d anticipated because they are interested, engaged,
lively, questioning and irrepressible.
They asked about
everything from what would happen to visiting granny in Manchester to
who’d represent Scotland across the world.
Thanks to all those
children. It was a great experience and I think they enjoyed it too.