Yesterday’s Scotland Bill debate, like most chamber debates, won’t have been viewed by the majority of the public. This morning most of the 51% of women in Scottish society will be unaware of how spectacularly they were let down.
Last night, MPs (71% of whom are men) voted down the ability to introduce quotas in the Scottish Parliament and public boards.
Before you ask, here is the detail:
- Amendment 123 was submitted by Ian Murray MP (Labour). This amendment would have devolved the ability to implement quotas in the Scottish Parliament to increase the number of women.
- Amendment 162 was submitted by Angus Robertson MP and Angela Crawley MP (SNP). This would have devolved the ability to implement quotas in public authorities (public boards, local authorities, education bodies etc.).
Both amendments compliment each other well, both would support equality for women in public life.
The SNP, in the words of one of their MPs, would “back any new powers to strengthen the Scottish Parliament”. So why, then, did this not extend to the ability to implement quotas in the Scottish Parliament?
The SNP managed to vote with Conservative and Liberal Democrat anti-choice MPs to devolve abortion law, despite 14 Scottish women’s organisations asking them not to. Yet they could not find it in themselves to vote alongside Labour to devolve quotas to the Scottish Parliament?
Labour, by contrast, managed to find the strength to act cross-party and vote in favour of the SNP amendment. Why? Because tackling inequality doesn’t belong to any one party, it is the duty of all parties.
It’s true that 56 additional MPs voting in favour of the amendment might not have meant it passed, but there is a principle here, a principle which the women of Scotland surely deserve: that when it comes to equality, we can cast aside our party lines and work together.
Perhaps the most gob-smacking part of this SNP decision to abstain is the fact that it completely ignores their own First Minister’s position. Nicola Sturgeon has given her full backing to the Women 50:50 campaign. She has put her weight behind quotas on public boards and elections to the Scottish Parliament and local councils! It seems that SNP MPs simply didn’t get the memo.
Sometimes you need to swallow the bitterness and do the right thing. This debate was one of those times. Why couldn’t the SNP simply have voted for both amendments?