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This group of amendments deals with who is eligible to stand and to vote in elections to the crofting commission.
Amendment 202 is a technical amendment that is related to amendment 203. The bill allows the registered crofter or their spouse, civil partner or cohabitant to vote in any election for the crofting commission. All members of the committee were supportive of that at stage 1 and it was supported at stage 2 by Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour committee members. Therefore, it is regrettable that the minister seeks to remove the provision at stage 3.
The Parliament has a duty to examine the equal opportunities implications of any bill. If the minister is successful, the body of people eligible to vote in any election to the crofting commission would be skewed towards men, because far more men are the registered crofters by virtue of history but most women whom the bill covers, who may not be registered crofters, are actively involved in crofting. The crofting commission will be responsible for the regulation of crofting, not only crofters, so it appears inherently unequal to allow a franchise that is so weighted against women.
Some members will argue that keeping the provision would skew the voting pattern in favour of those who are married, cohabiting or in a civil partnership. If that is the argument, women would never have got the vote in the first place. It is simply a matter of equality. Amendment 107, in the minister's name, reinforces a voting system that, by its nature, is unfair, particularly to women.
I urge members to reject it and to vote for amendment 202.
I move amendment 202.