Gender Equality

Councillor Claire Miller - #ScotWomenStand Role Model & Supporter

Claire Miller is the Green councillor for Edinburgh City Centre and is the spokesperson for economic development within the Edinburgh Green group of councillors. She was elected in 2017 after a career in business, including financial services.

Cllr Miller’s political interests are local action to prevent climate breakdown, equalities and in particular women’s rights and eradicating poverty. Claire has been involved in getting women into politics via the Parliament Project and within the Scottish Greens through the Women’s Network. You can follow Cllr Miller, and all of her professional announcements, over on Twitter @CllrCMiller

In the form of a video blog, Cllr Miller has shared her responses to questions posed for Step 2 of the ScotWomenStand Campaign, “Understanding Politics & Democracy”. Her answers provide a fantastic insight into life as an opposition Councillor, including how to forge a path into the role, and the many ways it opens up opportunities to contribute to and support our local communities.

[Full Transcript below video]

“I really want councils across Scotland to reflect the people they represent - which means getting more women elected. In this video I talk about some of the reasons why I stood for election, some of the barriers, and what to do if you're thinking about getting into politics.” - Cllr Claire Miller

Video Transcript:

Hi, My name is Claire Miller - I’m the Green Councillor for the Edinburgh City Centre ward, and I’m making this video for the ScotWomenStand’s theme this month, of “Understanding Politics & Democracy”.

They’ve sent me a few prompt questions, so I’m just going to talk off the top of my head, on some of the questions that are on this prompt.


The first thing they’ve suggested is talking about what issues are important to me, and why:

So, I got into politics because I felt it was important that more women got involved - to campaign, and make change at a local level.

I work at Edinburgh City Council, and I thought that there were issues that could be solved at council level, that were important for us in terms of Green Party politics. Things like tackling climate change, [which] involves making local changes - like transport, energy efficiency of buildings, and so on. And so, there’s lots of local stuff that can be done, that has an impact at a global level. That’s what motivated me to get involved in politics, at a local level, in the first place.


One of the other questions that they’ve asked us to cover when we make these videos and blogs is about role models:

Actually, for me, I never intended to run to be elected. I thought I would join the Green Party because I would maybe support others, from behind the scenes. I’m usually somebody who is more comfortable and confident sitting at a desk, and doing research and supporting others. But, I became encouraged to stand for office because I came in and shadowed the Green Councillors; and I followed my now colleague, Mel Main, who represents the Morningside ward.

I went through some of the work that [Cllr Melanie Main] was doing, and discovered that it was definitely something that I thought I could do. I could bring a lot of my skills to bear.

I thinks it’s worth considering whether, you know - well, you may have already thought about being in political office. My image of it before was that it would be quite scary, there would be a lot of public speaking required, and you would be a target for people’s vitriol. And, to some extent, that is true; but it’s not as prevalent as I thought it would be. I think you can manage the way in which you do your political job, so that it suits you, and it suits our character.

So, while there are some elements of public speaking, actually - at council meetings - I don’t find it too difficult anymore. I think the first year I found it quite stressful until I got used to it. But, actually, it’s really quite doable for people like me who are not too confident at doing that sort of thing.

Having a bit of resilience is important but, actually, more important is building your rules around how you’re going to engage with people. If you open yourself up to that social media free-for-all, then you’ll probably get attacked. But, you can manage your social media presence in such a way that it’s meaningful and helpful to your residents - but, you don’t get involved in flame-wars, and people trolling you. I have only received a few properly negative messages, and certainly nothing scary; and, I think that down to the fact that I use my social media to communicate with people, but I don’t really use it to get into debates about my politics. I don’t necessarily think that that wins people over. So, I just don’t do that.

So, I was inspired by [Cllr Melanie Main], and the ways that she was making a difference in the council, and the fact that it was something I could see myself doing. Because, actually, it’s good to have an inquiring mind, to ask questions; to have the ability to go talk to people, find out how to make changes that will start to take you towards your goals, and work incrementally on things.

That’s the sort of stuff I was already quite good at in business - I came from a business background. So, I’ve been able to apply those skills here, in my work as a Councillor, successfully.  


[ScotWomenStand] have also asked what further systems, support, and platforms would I like to see:

I think that’s a really important question, because for women standing for elected office, there are so many barriers in the way of standing. I think there’s got to be a lot of change made in the way that council works before it’s a really accessible place for women to think that it’s a really good place to work, and that it’s an easy place to work once you get elected and find yourself here.  

Here I am in my office. As you can see, it’s not very tidy - but, this is where I do most of my work and, unfortunately, some of the technology that I’ve got available to me can be a bit flaky. At that means then that, although I would like to work from home quite often, I find myself here. Even if I could really be doing things from home, it’s sometimes easier to just come in.

We do have the flexibility in that we can set our own timetables. We can decide where we’re going to work, and what time we’re going to work. Which is really helpful, and you can fit it around other responsibilities, and - although I don’t have childcare commitments - I can see that that’s something that is possible to do.

But, we do have problems. There is quite a lot of open-ended, in terms of time, commitments. Committee meetings; so, a committee meeting will have an agenda, and it will have a definite start time, but it doesn’t have a definite end time. So, you don’t know what time you’re going to be finished at a committee meeting. Experience can show you might estimate it to take, but you don’t actually know what time you’re going to get out of there. And, that can be quite difficult.

I think there is a range of issues. It’s just not a very forgiving environment. I suppose, as well - I think if you’re happy with the cut and thrust of the debating with people, then it’s ok. But, it can be quite challenging to fight for what you want, and stand up for the things that you’re looking for. But then, that can be quite rewarding as well. I find it quite rewarding when I manage to achieve something. I feel really that it’s more of an achievement than if I hadn’t had to battle for such a thing. So it’s good from that point of view. But, there are so many things that we need to change.

So, one of the positive steps that I’ve been making is that I’ve joined a working group in CoSLA - CoSLA is the organisation of all of the local authorities in Scotland - and we had a conference last year, with women of all of the local authorities, to look at how we can take down all of the barriers to women standing for elected office. Because I see a lot of women - certainly a lot on that day - who were elected in 2017, the same as me, who are now thinking that they might not stand for election again. And, I know that some of my friends in this council are considering the same. They are thinking about standing down. It is a shame, as it takes a little while to get into the job, to get your network of contacts in the council, and to get your feet under the desk and start to make a difference with the work that you’re doing. So, we need to make it easier and quicker to do that, or we need to make more attractive for women to stand for more than one term of office.

But, I would like to make it easier to get started, because then people would be more likely to take four or five years - a sort of sabbatical, I guess - leave from their work, or work part-time, to come and do an elected role like this, and then go back to their professional role again. Whereas, I think the fact that it’s quite time consuming to get started means that women are either put off from doing it, or you end up with career politicians that stay for a very long time and, perhaps, that’s not the best model. I think it might be better to have women coming in from professions, spending 4-5 years depending on the electoral term, doing the job, and then moving on. Back to their role as a professional, or as a parent or carer - whatever their role that they’re moving on to. That would be my preference.

The other barrier, when you think about that, is that getting elected is very digital. You’re either elected, or you’re not. And you spend a lot of time campaigning for an election, in the run up to it. So, if you’re elected then “hurrah!”, you’re in office. But, if you’re not elected and you haven’t lined up work, or if you’re not sure what direction you’re going to take when you’ve been elected and you’re looking to be re-elected and then you’re unsuccessful, that can be quite difficult to deal with work-wise.

We should talk about the fact that, financially, it’s - again - very digital; you’re either elected or you’re not. If you’re not in administration, you’re not well paid. So, as an opposition Councillor, I’m paid less than £17,000, and that’s because the role is salaried to be a pro-rata part-time role. And, actually, realistically, if I was to do all of my committee work, and all of my case work, and all of my party work - and everything that I do in this role, and add it up, it would definitely not come to part-time hours. So, the pay is really unrealistic for what we do. But, if you’re in administration, if you’re in the ruling party, there are senior Councillor allowances and those are divided up between the different Conveners, and people who have got different roles, such as the Lord Provost. Those roles are reasonably well paid, and on a par with a professional role. So, it can be perfectly well paid, or it can be really, really badly paid. There’s a big disparity, too.

As an opposition Councillor, I do an awful lot of work for a very small amount of money. We don’t have a lot of expenses either, so it’s not as if I’m claiming any additional money at all - I’m not. My one claim is for a bus pass, so I can go around to the different meetings in the ward.

So, yeah, there are a lot of barriers. I’m not going to mince words. But we are working on them, through that CoSLA working group. It’s about all barriers to all groups who have got protected characteristics. So, it’s not just access for women, it’s also for people with different disabilities, or differently abled people; different genders and sexualities, etc. It’s intersectional, and it’s looking at other issues, not just ‘Women’s issues’. Which is really important.

One of the things that I’m quite disappointed in, in the council that I’m in, is that we’re not gender-balanced. Some of the political groups are. We’re lucky in the Greens that we managed, through our gender balancing mechanisms, to get a 50:50 balanced group elected. But, even if you stand 50:50 in your candidates, you might not manage to elect a 50:50 group. So, we’re fortunate, and I’m aware of that. That wasn’t necessarily going to be the outcome under every circumstance. But it would be lovely, in the future, to see a council that did genuinely reflect society. We’re very poor at doing that in Scotland; in our Parliament and our Councils aren’t gender-balanced. Nor do they reflect all of the other different characteristics, ethnicity and so on. They are poorly reflected.


So, yeah, let’s end on a positive! [ScotWomenStand] asks what words of support and guidance do I have for fellow women of Scotland:

I would say, jump in! Genuinely. Contact a Councillor who you admire, or contact an MSP who you admire and think highly of. If you’ve seen them speaking, or you’ve seen an article in the press where you think they presented a point of view that resonated with you, get in touch with them and ask if they’ve got any opportunities to come in and shadow them. Or, to volunteer, to help with any of their work, because that’s the best way to get started. I found that to be really helpful. You find out exactly what the job is like. I would recommend it even if you decide then not to stand as a politician, because it’s just a really interesting experience, and you get to understand what it is that we do!

My work is incredibly varied. Last week we had a meeting of full council, and I made several contributions to different debates. Some of which I won, some of which I did not win. So, it can be quite dramatic at council; and sometimes you can come away from it feeling good, and sometimes not so good, like last week. But, some of the other things I was doing in the last couple of weeks included meeting the director of the National Galleries to talk about some of their strategic plans. I went on a visit to Edinburgh College, because I’m working on a project called Granton Waterfront, where there’s a big development site and they are currently in the middle of that location, so they’re going to be an important partner there. I went on a walkabout with some of the residents in an area in the city centre where they’re having some trouble with cars parking on the pavement. I had a surgery meeting in the evening, and I had a residents’ association meeting.

So, I did lots of varied work, and I think you only get a sense of the kind of variety, and the interesting stuff that we do, if you just spend some time with a Councillor or an MSP to find out what we do. And, there’s lots of support roles, as well. If you look at it all and think “ach no, that’s not for me” there’s lots of jobs that sit either with the parties - so they will advertise for lots of different roles - or there’s jobs working with the Parliament or Council, where you’re supporting the politicians to do their jobs. And, we could not do our roles without those people there. They are really valuable to us, and they provide us with really important support. And, again, it’s a really great way to do something that supports the community.  

So, I hope that was interesting! A little bit of a ramble, unprepared - but, probably a little bit more genuine for that. I hope you enjoyed it!

Councillor Anne Horn - #ScotWomenStand Role Model & Supporter

SNP Councillor for Kintyre and the Islands, in Argyll & Bute, Cllr Anne Horn is a highly active campaigner for equality, and the end of violence against women, as well as a supporter of renewable energy and sustainability for the Argyll & Bute communities.

*Content warning: Domestic abuse.*

Cllr Anne Horn, SNP, of Argyll & Bute.

Cllr Anne Horn, SNP, of Argyll & Bute.

I recall a defining moment at an early point in my career when I found myself on the path of a women whose story opened my eyes and clarified, within me, the feeling that I must use my voice for those who are unable, for many reasons, to find or use their own.

I found myself listening to a lady, who had recently fled her home, picked up her children barefooted from her garden and ran to safety in fear of her life at the hands of her husband. She was from a good home, her husband, a well-known and upstanding member of the community. Her children well dressed and well behaved. She had flown from her garden that day, not knowing quite where she would go. He had held a knife to her, she was no longer willing to stay silent and suffer.

At that point, I was inspired by her courage, her resolve and in all her vulnerability the strength she had found, within herself, to bring about change, to rescue herself and to begin to rebuild from a new beginning.

My own journey took a turn and I began to understand that I too had to find courage to use my voice in spaces where I could make a real difference.

Since becoming a councillor, every day has offered opportunity, often finding myself in corners, on behalf of individuals or my community, which are difficult. I brought some skills which have been useful but I’ve continually been building more. Diplomacy, tact, strength and discernment regularly feature in my work and I value the every present opportunity to work alongside others, recognising the skills and energy they bring and coming together to resolve issues and find ways to move forward.

I would encourage other women to go into local politics. There is a growing support network and it is very rewarding.

Alongside her role as Councillor, Cllr Horn is the Director of Tarbert & Skipness Community Trust, and an active member of both the Tarbert Youth Music Initative, and the Argyll and Bute VAW Multi Agency Partnership. Find out more about Cllr Anne Horn, including how to get in touch with her, on the Argyll & Bute Council website.

#FBFMightyWomen - Winnie Ewing

Glasgow-born Winnie Ewing is an internationally renowned politician. A prominent SNP politician, as well as a member of both Parliament, Scottish Parliament, and European Parliament, Ewing generated huge support for the SNP in the 1967 by-election. Acting as the Scottish National Party President from 1987 to 2005, Ewing also qualified and practised as a solicitor and notary public, being the Secretary of the Glasgow Bar Association from 1962 to 1967.

Winnie Ewing, in 1967 (Photo Credit:  The Blantyre Project )

Winnie Ewing, in 1967 (Photo Credit: The Blantyre Project)

Ewing’s political foray first came about through her membership with the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association, where she actively campaigned for Scottish Independence. Winning the Hamilton by-election as the SNP candidate, Ewing attended Westminster in a Scottish-built Hillman Imp, and with her presence, SNP had a significant rise in membership. In 1974, Ewing was took the position as the SNP spokesperson on external affairs, and in the following year became a Member of European Parliament.

Taking SNP Presidency in 1987, and by 1995 Ewing became Britain’s longest serving MEP. In addition, she was the former Vice President of the European Radical Alliance. In 1999 Ewing did not stand for the European Parliament but became a Member of the Scottish Parliament in the first session of the Scottish Parliament representing the Highlands and Islands.

Outside of the political environment, Ewing was a Vice President of Parity, an equal rights charity, and was conferred with an honorary LLD degree from the University of Glasgow.

The current First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, believes Ewing ‘changed the course of Scottish political history’[1]. Ewing has been a trailblazer for politics, women in politics, and the Scottish political landscape. She promoted Scotland’s national interest in Europe, which resulted in her being awarded the sobriquet of Madame Ecosse.

Winnie Ewing with her portrait, at The Scottish Parliament in 2009 (Photo Credit:  BBC Scotland ).

Winnie Ewing with her portrait, at The Scottish Parliament in 2009 (Photo Credit: BBC Scotland).

Ewing chaired the first meeting of the devolved Scottish Parliament, and in an interview 2013, claimed that she had been urged to stand by three young men from the Hamilton SNP branch who visited her when she was living in the southside of Glasgow. This is a brilliant example of how those in power can bring others in who have been marginalised or excluded from political realms. Some Labour politicians from the central belt at the time, in response to Ewing’s victories, treated her so badly she had to report their behaviour to the Commons’ Authorities.

 "She argued her cause and her corner at a time when it wasn't fashionable to do so, and she did it against all of the odds having experienced abuse and bullying along the way," - FM Nicola Sturgeon


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-43516895/political-heroes-snp-nicola-sturgeon-on-winnie-ewing


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Written by Beth Cloughton, Young Women Lead Programme Intern, with YWCA Scotland - The Young Women’s Movement. You can follow Beth, and more of her writing on Twitter @Bacloughton, and on the Young Women’s Movement blog!

100 for the 100th: the day in June that sparked the #ScotWomenStand campaign

The #ScotWomenStand campaign builds on the success of the ‘100 for the 100th’ events, jointly organised by YWCA Scotland - The Young Women’s Movement and The Parliament Project. Held in June 2018, these events saw 100 women come together to discuss what was needed for a gender equal politics. Learn more about this fantastic event, and all of the action-focused initiatives that continue to result!

By Hannah, Parliament Project Programme Manager

Inspired and inspiring women at the 100 for the 100th event in Edinburgh.

Inspired and inspiring women at the 100 for the 100th event in Edinburgh.

On 30th June 2018, 100 women gathered together at the Grassmarket Community Centre in Edinburgh for a vision-building event to celebrate Scottish Suffragettes.  The room was bustling with a glorious group of women with a rich variety of life experiences and different political perspectives, but the key thing we had in common was that we were all women with a passion for gender equality in politics who wanted to make an audacious plan!

YWCA Scotland - Young Women’s Movement and The Parliament Project organised the day with a grant from the Scottish Government Vote Centenary fund. In my role as Programme Manager for The Parliament Project, one of my jobs was to ensure that we had a wide range of women’s voices in the room contributing to the discussion.  It was important that we made access requirements for any woman that needed it – be that BSL interpretation, financial support for travel or childcare, quiet space, PAs (personal assistants).  By ensuring these needs were met, women who don’t always have the opportunity to attend events such as this were at the heart of the conversation.

Collaborative action planning and Zine-making at the 100 for the 100th event in Edinburgh.

Collaborative action planning and Zine-making at the 100 for the 100th event in Edinburgh.

Together, those 100 women set about making the first steps of a plan of action to raise the numbers of women of all ages to take their place in our Parliaments and local and community councils across the country, to bring about gender equality in politics in the next 5 years.  This was an ambitiously short period of time (2018-2022) because we don’t want to wait another 100 years to see the reality of gender equality in politics and the difference that will make to our society. 

We heard from a glorious range of females: an artist, a girl, a comedian & a suffragette. We made zines. together, we ate together, we muraled together and we made an audacious plan! It was a hot, hot day and the room was heavy with the heat, but we smiled, sweated and supported our sisters.  During the afternoon 2 women in the room, Kairin & Mary each stated their ambitions to stand for elected office. 

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The optimistic, encouraging and hopeful energy in the room was palpable. We all knew that if different spheres of Government were represented by the gloriously diverse group of women we saw in that room, that our democracy could function effectively.  We can’t wait another 100 years until that happens - we need momentum and action sooner than that.  We hope we can have another day following on from 100th, bringing together more women to join the conversation and engaging senior representatives from relevant public bodies in Scotland to join us. This is a movement and the more people – women and men – who can jump on board, the quicker we’ll reach our goal!


Hannah, Parliament Project Programme Manager