Katharine Stewart-Murray

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at on 7 December 2023.

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Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

Yes, absolutely. That is what I am discussing here. We see a remarkable woman who fought and fought and fought. She should not have had to. The problem is that many women are still having to fight the party system and the Parliament system to contribute to public life, as she did.

Women who get elected find barriers that they did not expect once they get here, whether that is misogyny and harassment or a struggle to access childcare or healthcare, such as menopause support, away from home. At the end of every session, we see successful women citing family or caring responsibilities when they step down. They have discovered the incompatibility of those responsibilities and their role here, and that is why they are not seeking re-election.

The Parliament’s gender-sensitive audit made more than 30 recommendations on how to improve the Parliament’s rules, practices and culture. It is important that we keep the progress going internally to improve the experience of women and other underrepresented groups. We know that the problem is wide and deep, and that the need for societal change remains. If we are listening to the stories of a woman who sat in the United Kingdom Parliament 100 years ago and are able to connect them to the lived experience of women who sit in this modern Scottish Parliament today, that shows us just how far we need to go.

We might be able to say confidently that our parties would not act in the same way towards women who dare to think for themselves, as happened to Katherine Stewart-Murray, but much of that attitude remains and is still visible.

We will not make effective societal change without women who understand both the equalities at play and how being part of the process impacts them. Women are being removed from the process due to our structures and attitudes. I thank all the men in the room who are engaging with the likes of White Ribbon Scotland and listening to female colleagues, because all those issues are connected. I encourage everyone to take notice of the remaining inequalities at play and to do whatever is in their power to tackle them.

13:33 Meeting suspended.

14:30 On resuming—