International Women's Day

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:01 pm on 8th March 2007.

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Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour 12:01 pm, 8th March 2007

To ask the First Minister, in light of international women's day on 8 March, what achievements there have been which have improved women's lives in Scotland. (S2F-2769)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

International women's day is a day for reflection and celebration for women across the globe. We have much to be proud of on improving the lives of women in Scotland, but I think we all recognise that there is still much to do.

However, I am proud that the gender pay gap is narrowing; that girls and young women are leading the way in our schools, colleges and universities; that we have introduced tough new measures for the police and courts to tackle all forms of violence against women; that child care is improving, such that everyone who wants a nursery place for their three or four-year-old is guaranteed one; and that deaths from cervical and breast cancer have declined. In addition, I am especially proud that we have strong female representation in Parliament—the level of female representation here is among the best in the world.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour

I welcome the First Minister's answer on our achievements, especially the part of it about cervical cancer. Will he join me in welcoming today's announcement by the Labour Party that all 12-year-old girls will be offered a vaccination against cervical cancer? Does he share my ambition that Scotland should be the first nation in the world to have a population that is fully vaccinated against the disease?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Cervical cancer is an issue not just for the women who receive that frightening diagnosis; it is a massive issue for the families throughout Scotland who are affected by deaths from the disease, more than 100 of which continue to occur each year. Fear of cervical cancer adds considerably to the worries of young and older women throughout Scotland. As soon as the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation agrees to make the vaccination available in the United Kingdom, it will be right and proper for women in Scotland to receive it and to be free from that fear.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

How will the Scottish Executive deliver on its obligations under the gender equality duty, which I believe will be stronger in Scotland than in the rest of the UK?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

We will work with public and private partners who are affected by the duty to ensure that it is consistently implemented. The Scottish Executive's equality unit deals with a range of bodies and stakeholders on such issues and we monitor the implementation of not just the gender equality duty but the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.