It is important to record the good news that the Parliament now has a record number of women MSPs, although the proportion who are women is not yet at 50 per cent. We should aspire to all our Parliaments having representation at national and local levels that properly represents the society that we live in.
There is no doubt that women in society, including those in public life, continue to face unacceptable levels of sexist and misogynistic behaviour. That can—and does, I believe—put many women off standing for elected office. It harms democracy; it harms all of us; and it is completely unacceptable. Those things need to change. To change them, we need men to end their sexist and misogynistic behaviour and to be much more aware of their actions and words and of the impact of them.
The Scottish Government funds projects to support and equip women to stand for elected office. That includes Engender’s equal representation project to help political parties to increase their diversity, and the young women lead programme and Elect Her, which empower women to stand for elected office.
The comments that were directed at Angela Rayner, as reported at the weekend, were deeply sexist and misogynistic. Women face misogyny not just in elected office but in everyday life. Will the First Minister outline what work is under way to eliminate prejudice and misogyny in Scotland, and will she join me in condemning the comments that were made towards Angela Rayner? [
Yes. I am glad to hear the support from across the chamber for Angela Rayner. I certainly stand in solidarity with her and condemn unreservedly the comments that were reported on Sunday. Like everybody else—or most other people—I was absolutely appalled both by the male Conservative MP who thought that it was okay to make those pathetic and derogatory comments and by the fact that we still live in a society in which it is deemed acceptable for such a story to be published in a major newspaper. A lot of reflection is needed on both of those points.
Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with—in my case—the
Daily Mail’s tactics of attempting to reduce women politicians to their legs. To the best of my knowledge, such tactics are never used to dismiss and degrade male politicians in the way that that happens to female politicians.
Sadly and depressingly, the story highlighted what women already know and what many women already experience daily, which is deep-seated sexism and misogyny in society. That needs to be addressed.
We will continue to take the actions that I set out in my earlier answer, but I am also pleased that in our response to the work of Baroness Kennedy’s misogyny and criminal justice in Scotland working group, we committed to consult on draft legislation in advance of introducing a bill to specifically tackle misogyny.
This is something for all of us—but for men, in particular—to reflect on. We will rue the day that we make it more difficult and less attractive for women to come forward for election to public office. It is time to draw a line in the sand, and it is time for men—not all men are misogynists, but misogyny comes from men—to change.