International Women's Day

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:33 pm on 5th March 2009.

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Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party 5:33 pm, 5th March 2009

I, too, congratulate Cathy Peattie on securing the debate and I pay tribute to her work down the years on wider equality issues. It is good to see Elaine Smith back in the chamber in full voice.

I will briefly outline what the Scottish Government is doing for international women's day and then discuss three of the topics that the motion mentions, because I cannot cover in four minutes every topic that has been raised in the debate. The Scottish ministers are more actively involved this year than ever, building on the success of the previous Administration in this area, with events and activities to mark international women's day. I hope that that demonstrates our commitment to the women's agenda in Scotland and to equalities generally, and to ensuring that we make progress on the issues that have been identified.

We are helping to fund three organisations to hold international women's day events: Fiona Hyslop will speak in the chamber on Saturday at the Scottish Women's Convention event, as, I think, will Cathy Peattie; Women@Work is holding an international women's day event on Saturday in Inverness; and Shona Robison is attending and speaking at an event on Friday 13 March, which is organised by the Dundee International Women's Centre.

We are funding the organisers of three events that will take place between July 2008 and March 2011. The three organisers are: the Scottish Women's Convention, Women@Work, and the Dundee International Women's Centre. The Government's assistance is respectively £521,351, £258,855 and £160,000.

In total, we have committed nearly £3 million to continue to fund nine of our strategic partners to carry out specific work to help us to progress gender equality issues. In addition, in celebrating international women's day, a delegation from Armenia is being met and a range of other activities is taking place.

I turn to three substantive issues: violence against women, equal pay and occupational segregation. The subject of the event in the Parliament on Saturday is violence against women. Scotland has been leading the way in developing this agenda over a number of years on the basis of a firm gender-based analysis. We believe that our success comes down in the main to the partnership approach that we have adopted with the organisations that I mentioned earlier.

This work will be developed further during the next stage of the single outcome agreement process, in which we will ensure the full involvement of community planning partners. In turn, that should assist in engaging the multi-agency partnerships that work to prevent violence against women in identifying local priorities. I am conscious of the concerns that what should be going on locally across Scotland is going on locally. The Government has discussed the matter with our national group on violence against women and COSLA representatives. COSLA is keeping a very close eye on the situation to ensure that there is no diminution in service levels or in local network activities in this area. I am keeping a close personal eye on the matter.

Over the next three years, the Government will allocate over £44 million to tackling violence against women and children, including domestic abuse. I am making not a party political but a substantive point when I say that that funding more than doubles that of the previous three years.

The annual domestic abuse publicity campaign, which runs in December and January each year, is absolutely vital to our work in this area. This year's campaign involved a new television advert, "I Soar". There is also our online work to encourage women to contact the Scottish domestic abuse helpline for support. Recent figures from the helpline reveal an increase of 7.5 per cent in calls over the festive period from last year. We are evaluating the campaign to see how we can further improve it in future years.

Given that I am running out of time, or have run out of time—