UK Politics

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!

#FBFMightyWomen - Ray Michie

Not only was our #FBF a Scottish speech therapist, born in the Old Manse, but she was also a Liberal Democrat politician. Today we present, Ray Michie.

Ray Michie MP   (Photo Credit:  BBC, 2008 ).

Ray Michie MP (Photo Credit: BBC, 2008).

Spending fourteen years representing in Parliament (MP) for Argyll and Bute between 1987 and 2001, Michie was the first person to pledge the oath of allegiance in the House of Lords entirely in Gaelic.

Michie first entered into politics whilst waiting for her father to arrive for his own political meetings. Here, she developed her taste for the political, and regularly spoke before he went on stage. Bannerman, Michie’s dad, fought Argyll at the 1945 election, and Inverness at the 1950 general election, where he lost the by-election here and again in 1954, and 1955. In 1967, Bannerman became a life peer, which Michie also eventually became.

Michie worked as a speech therapist at the county hospital in Oban, and later for the Argyll and Clyde Health Board in 1977. During this time, she supplemented speech-therapy with political activism (not easy work!), and became the Chairman of Argyll Liberal Association from 1973 to 1976, which was proceeded by becoming the vice-Chairman of the Scottish Liberal Party from 1977 to 1983. Michie defeated the Convservative ministers, John Mackay, in the 1987 general election to become a Member of Parliament standing her as the Liberals’ only female MP. Not only this, but Michie was an advocate for Home Rule for Scotland, and in promoting and developing the Scottish Gaelic language. 

When the Liberal Democrats formed in 1988, Michie joined and increased her majority in the following two general elections, garnering support of voters in the remote constituencies of the peninsulas and islands. This was perhaps because as a Liberal Democrat, she was the spokesperson on transport and rural development from 1987 to 1988, moving to ‘women’s issues’ in 1988 to 1994, and then as spokesperson on Scotland from 1988 to 1997. Speaker Betty Boothroyd appointed Michie as a member of the panel of chairmen during her last term in the Commons, from 1997 to 2001, where she supported campaigns to end submarine operations of the Royal Navy in the Firth of Clyde, as well as successfully bidding for residents of Gigha to buy their own island.

Her political involvement doesn’t stop here; Michie also became a joint Vice-Chairsperson on the Parliamentary Group on the Whisky industry, and was made a life peer as Baroness Michie of Gallanach, of Oban in Argyll and Bute in 2001, after stepping down from parliament in the general election. Michie was also appointed as an Honorary Associate of the National Council of Women of Great Britain, and appointed to the Scottish Broadcasting Commission shortly before her passing.

 Michie’s life was characterised by political involvement, and she managed to accomplish so much in every aspect of it; a mother to three children, a wife, the Vice-President of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, and all the political positions she held on top of that. Her life was committed to furthering the causes she held close to her liberal ideologies.


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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!  

#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!

Dr Vikki Turbine - #ScotWomenStand Role Model & Supporter

Learning and listening as ‘Feminists in Progress’:  for a feminist political education.  By Dr Vikki Turbine


I have been a Politics Lecturer for the past 10 years. I will soon be leaving my post and academia, but that is another story for another day. 

In this blog, I want to reflect on what I have learnt as a Lecturer in a ‘Feminist Politics’ classroom.  Speaking to one of the core themes in this stage of the campaign; Understanding Politics & Democracy. 

I want to outline why I am optimistic for the future and for this campaign. 

I will also reiterate why I think this campaign is so necessary and urgent.  There is such a long way to go before women will feel willing to take the risks that standing up in formal politics still sadly entails.  

We have reasons to be optimistic about a wider context of feminism in progress.  We have seen the changes sparked by #metoo,  the marking of the centenary of some women’s suffrage in the UK last year, and have celebrities such as Jameela Jamil using their platform to critically reflect on, and raise the profile of feminism. Importantly reminding us that we are all ‘feminists in progress’. 


None of us have our feminism perfect. 

At the same time, we are reminded all to frequently of the misogynistic and racist abuse faced by women who try to bring feminist politics into the public arena.  One recent example, the abuse Kimberle Crenshaw - the theorist and activist who gave us intersectionality - faced from an anti-feminist audience member at the LSE reveals how we are also in a moment of active push back against feminism.  


Even, within education, the place of feminism - when tied to an active politics education - remains marginal and marginalised.  We are at a moment where we need alternative disruptions and voices, but where the turmoil of this moment actively attempts to close them out. 

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Indeed, the students I work with often report that my class is the first time they have had the opportunity to study feminism in any meaningful way - and, more importantly, to gain a voice for their own feminist politics. 

In my teaching, I adopt a reflective and creative process of assessment - asking students to link their voices and experiences to feminist theory and activism.  Asking them to think about why feminism is urgent in addressing the problems we face. Encouraging them to move beyond the individual to the collective.  Asking them to work together to write manifestos and make collages out of the anti-feminist politics they live.  This process reveals how much appetite there is to learn more about feminism, in a judgement free space.  And, how much learning there is to be done about what it is like to be a young person, a woman living in Scotland and the UK now. 


The young people I work with are politically engaged and want to learn.  To have the language to express their experiences.  To begin to own their experiences. 


We have so much to learn from our young people. 

Feminism allows us this opportunity - lets not waste it. 

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For any campaign that wants women to come forward and stand,  to enter into the multiple spaces that make up the political, we must have the tools not only to understand the maelstrom of structural, cultural, economic, and political constraints there. 

We must also have the analytical and critical insights that feminism give us - so that we can see how current processes create opportunities for some, and resolutely exclude others.  As Sophie Walker, the leaders of the Women’s Equality Party, said in her resignation statement ‘we need people that bruise’. 


Yet, we also need spaces in which those bruises can heal, for the collective.  We need new voices that will transform the current political context.  We need to ensure that education plays it’s role here. 

Not telling young women what they should do, but allowing them to tell those in power what they should be doing. 





Dr Vikki Turbine is a Lecturer in Politics with research and teaching interests in feminism, human rights, education and class. She tweets @VikTurbine and is on Instagram as @vikturbine. She also blogs at: https://firstgenerationfeminist.blogspot.com 

#TBTMightyWomen - Mary Barbour

Magistrate, local councillor and bailie are just a few titles that define this week’s #TBTMightyWomen profile. Mary Barbour started her journey as a political activist through the Kinning Park Co-operative Guild, leading to her spearheading the South Govan Women’s Housing Association at the time of the Glasgow Rent Strikes in the early 20th century.

In response to a 25% rent increase, proposed by private landlords, Barbour organised both eviction resistance protests and tenant committees. Here, she joined left-wing groups, like the Independent Labour Party and the Socialist Sunday School Movement. Barbour’s work quickly generated a lot of support which led to formation of ‘Mrs Barbour’s Army’[1].

Mary Barbour (Image Credit: The  Pearce Institute )

Mary Barbour (Image Credit: The Pearce Institute)

Alongside Agnes Dollan and Helen Crawfurd, Barbour [2] created the Women’s Peace Crusade (WPC) in 1916, at the Great Women’s Peace Conference. The group primarily campaigned for a negotiation settlement to WWI, with open air meetings that was unfortunately hindered through the development of a coalition government led by Lloyd George. WPC began to branch, and spread from Glasgow to all over Scotland, as well as England, campaigning until the end of the war.

In formal politics, Barbour assumed the position as the first women Bailie on Glasgow Corporation, alongside Mary Bell, as well as being appointed one of the first women Magistrates. Barbour was the Labour candidate for the Fairfield war in Govan, elected to Glasgow Town Council (one of the first woman councillors too!), and appointed as the Justice of the Peace commissioner for the City of Glasgow. Phew.

In between all of these incredible roles, Barbour also chaired the Glasgow Women’s Welfare and Advisory Clinic! This centre was the first of its kind in Scotland as it offered advice on birth control for women[3]!

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Moving to the modern day, Glasgow Women’s Library with Sharon Thomas created a monument in honour of Barbour, resulting in a resurgence of interest in her extensive work. Remember Mary Barbour Association then formed and campaigned for the creation of a statue in Barbour’s honour, which was completed in March last year (making it the fourth statue of a woman in the entirety of Glasgow…).

Check out these links:

-        https://remembermarybarbour.wordpress.com/mary-barbour-rent-strike-1915/

-        http://dangerouswomenproject.org/2017/03/02/mary-barbour-dangerous-woman/

-        https://party.coop/2018/03/08/mary-barbour-honoured-on-international-womens-day/


[1] http://www.acumfaegovan.com/govan-history/mary-barbour

[2] The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 2007. p. 2

[3] Birth Control Local Clinic Opens for Married Women". The Govan Press. 1926-08-13

Jenny Marr - #ScotWomenStand Role Model & Supporter

Empowered and mobilised through her life in the Scottish Borders, and work as member of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Jenny Marr sees the full potential of women in politics, making significant positive change for all a reality.

Jenny addresses us all as members of the #ScotWomenStand campaign, and movement, with mighty words of encouragement to register and use our votes!

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Using your vote… It’s another thing to add to the to-do list, isn’t it?

And of course first you have to register to do it.

Then there’s the wading through of manifestos, trying to understand policies, which are not exactly the work of Shakespeare. Then there's the appeal of Love Island, or similar, which are just too all-consuming to consider anything else.

Been there, got the t-shirt. Trust me, I understand.


But what is the alternative? Be left out? Let your voice go unheard?

I know its certainly true that many politicians need to be better at keeping in touch. But don’t allow the laziness of some to block your participation.

Your voice is worth so much more than that.

Women have the right to tell their story, and have fought for that right - some are still fighting. And part of that is through putting a cross on a ballot paper in the privacy of the polling booth.

It’s your school, it’s your health centre, it’s your money. And it goes deeper than that. It’s your grandma who can’t get her flu jab this year, it’s your child whose classroom is too small, or their resources too few. It’s your hard-earned taxes.

Don’t exclude yourself from the narrative. Don’t overthink it. Don’t leave it to someone else.



Sometimes someone in your life is a bigger influence than they were ever able to know. My Grandad, who died when I was just eight, was a Cllr in the North of England.  He was an advocate for, and passionate defender of, local democracy and local government.

He believed in “parish pump politics”, of chewing the fat in the Market Square and fixing problems as a community. Before local government was reorganised, and Councils became much bigger, he said “We have our grumbles and grouses, but at least the system had a soul.”

More than that, the community had a voice, and used it.

They used it by voting.

Politicians are like everyone else. They have their strengths and weaknesses and certainly none of them are perfect.  And if you want to make sure the right ones are hired and fired coming polling day, you can.

By voting you can turn round to them and say I voted for you, I put my trust in you. You really can hold them to account.

The best thing is – apart from how quick and easy the process is – you don’t even have to pick any of them! Leave your ballot blank, spoil it, write a message. All ballots have to be verified, so it will be seen! My favourite was a drawing of a cat, and believe me, that’s not the strangest thing I’ve seen!

Voting plays its part in determining who we are - as a person and as a nation. What we stand for.

If you’re disillusioned, you have every right to be. But disengagement won’t fix it. Don’t make it easier to be ignored.

Play your part.  Because progress is often achieved by small, but not insignificant acts. Like clicking on this link. Or by registering for a postal vote and walking the 2 minutes to the post box. It matters, because you matter.

You can follow Jenny, and all of her community empowering work, over on Twitter @BordersJen.

Read more about Jenny’s recent selection by her party, the Scottish Liberal Democrats, to stand as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk constituency.  It’s an extra dose of inspiration, to raise your voice and be heard in the forums of political decision making!




#TBTMightyWomen - Maria Fyfe MP

Born in The Gorbals, in 1938, Maria Fyfe grew up in Pollok, Glasgow. After gaining her degree in Economic History as mature student, she went on to lecture in Further Education in Falkirk, soon going on to become a senior lecturer on TUC courses for union reps at Central College, Glasgow.

From 1980 to 1987, Maria stood as a Councillor in Glasgow, including roles as convener of Personnel Committee, and deputy treasurer for the city council. It was in 1987 that she went on to be elected as Labour MP for Glasgow Maryhill. At the time, she was the only female Labour MP from Scotland, going on to hold her seat in UK Parliament until 2001.

In her biographical profile, provided by the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow, her list of titles, experience, and accolades is extensive - and inspiring! Including:

MariaFyfe_MP
  • Appointed deputy shadow minister for women, later Scottish front bench spokesperson on Health, Education and Arts.

  • Chaired Scottish Group of Labour MPs.

  • Chaired Scottish Constitutional Convention working party on equal representation of women in planned Scottish Parliament.

  • Other parliamentary work included international development, making preparations for the Good Friday Agreement, and membership of the Council of Europe, advancing human rights issues.


Throughout Maria’s career, she has been an incredible force for Human Rights advocacy in policy making - both nationally, and internationally. A major passion being her involvement in equal rights for women campaigns, which earned her an Honorary Doctorate from Glasgow University.

When asked about her first days in UK Parliament, in a 2014 interview with The Evening Times, she recalls a scene of incredible lacking with regards to women’s representation:

"When I actually got to the House of Commons there were around 23 women, and only three from Scotland… I was thinking, this has got to change, we've got to have more women in parliament, and I was determined to be part of achieving that."

It was a time when the voices of women were close to excluded in policy making, even on topics which may normatively and/or reasonably be seen as requiring women at the forefront of discussions. Maria, however, never accepted doors being closed on these discussions, nor the gender-biased ways in which women were portrayed - from Parliament and media, to workplaces, education, the home, and even prisons.

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Maria Fyfe campaigned tirelessly throughout her career, well up to the present day - through her writing, public speaking, and activism. Including spearheading the recent campaign which saw the famous Mary Barbour - one of the first female Councillors in Glasgow’s City Chambers - finally being honoured, with a statue in Govan.

A significant figure in Scottish politics, Maria Fyfe’s hard work and support of others is a fantastic inspiration - “Rebel Maria” indeed!


You can find out more about Maria’s life and career in her book, “A Problem Like Maria”. As well as in some of the truly insightful interviews she has given:

'Rebel' Maria Fyfe tells of her time as an MP, the barriers she faced and the highlights of her career - by Caroline Wilson of the Evening Times

Just met a rebel named Maria As she prepares to retire from Westminster at the next election - By Jennifer Cunningham of The Herald


Listen to the official British Library recording of Maria Fyfe’s interview for The History of Parliament Oral History Project,
available here.






#TBTMightyWomen - Constance Markievicz

Constance Markievicz, the first woman elected to the British House of Commons.

 

Constance Markievicz was a socialist suffragette, revolutionary and served as Minister for Labour in the early 20th century, as well as a Member of Parliament for Dublin St Patrick, and served as a Teachta Dála (an assembly delegate- similar to a Member of Parliament).

Not only was she a founding member of Fianna Éireann, and the Irish Citizen Army, she was also the first woman elected to the British House of Commons in 1918 [1]. Although she rejected her seat at Parliament in Britain, she continued to be incredibly influential through less formal routes, grassroots campaigns, and sustained intellectual critique of political structures.

“The Rebel Countess”, Constance Markievicz, gun in hand.

“The Rebel Countess”, Constance Markievicz, gun in hand.

 "I would never take an oath of allegiance to the power I meant to overthrow"

[Quoted in Anne Marreco, The Rebel Countess, p241]

It was in 1908 when Markievicz became politically active, first by joining a revolutionary feminist movement named Sinn Féin and Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland)[2]. Her political activism was also performatively genius- during a campaign against Churchill’s election (who opposed women voting), Markievicz rode into the constituency in a carriage drawn by four white (one of the suffrage’s colours) horses to promote her political ideology, only to be heckled (classic) by a man asking whether she could cook dinner. Markievicz responded this hilarious and well-thought out (see:sarcasm) comment with ‘…yes. Can you drive a coach and four?’ – personally, I doubt he could do either.

“The Rebel Countess”, Constance Markievicz.

“The Rebel Countess”, Constance Markievicz.

The rebel Countess endured repeated bouts in prison for working towards an alternative reality, one that went against the norm. Although time incarcerated didn’t stop her from being elected into the House of Commons, Markievicz preferred to be at rallies, working in slums, providing food for protesting union workers, and arming herself to fight for suffragist ideals and anti-imperialist agenda[3].

 

Markievicz lived her life by the rules she set herself and not within the confines of society at the time- she was a proficient mechanic, she opted to wear trousers instead of skirts (and was heavily teased for this), she knew how to load and shoot weapons, and was elected to positions of power directing huge groups of people to a more feminist future. And this future was one considering the intersectional nature of identity. This Irish badass recognised that ‘the first step on the road to freedom is to realise ourselves as Irishwomen – not as Irish or merely as women, but as Irishwomen doubly enslaved and with a double battle to fight” (Markievicz, 1909).


[1] Countess Markievicz—'The Rebel Countess'" (PDF). Irish Labour History Society

[2] Countess Markievicz (Constance Markievicz)"Centre for Advancement of Women in Politics.

[3] McKenna, Joseph (2011). Guerrilla Warfare in the Irish War of Independence, 1919-1921. McFarland. p. 112. ISBN 0786485191.

Lauren Bennie - #ScotWomenStand Role Model & Supporter

Empowered and mobilised through her extensive work in Scottish communities and organisations, Lauren Bennie sees the full potential of women to take up space, and make real positive change for all a reality. Lauren addresses us all as members of the #ScotWomenStand campaign and movement, with encouraging and supportive words.

Lauren Bennie - Inspiring woman of Scottish & UK politics.

Lauren Bennie - Inspiring woman of Scottish & UK politics.

We need more EVERYONE in politics. We need elected members who have lived experiences like knowing what it means to rent homes on insecure tenancy agreements for decades while saving for a home deposit, or those of us who have been made redundant and had to return to the job centre week in week out to face a different work coach on every occasion, or those of us who understand the pressures of travelling to work on delayed trains and infrequent rural bus services to be faced by an unforgiving employer. Very often it is our experienced care-givers and our home-based family project managers who live closest to the everyday politics, and are best placed to represent us at every tier of our country’s government - from the school PTA, to the village’s Community Council, to a city’s Area Partnership and local authority, or the chambers of our Scottish and UK Parliaments.

We especially need more women in politics. #ScotWomenStand together.

We support one another, we work across party divides. In my Community Council we work on consensus and if we don’t get that, we move to respectful compromise. We don’t need to be bogged down by overtly bureaucratic and archaic voting systems or secret ballots when we can listen to one another and find our own ways forward in the interest of the communities we serve.

#ScotWomenStand up for our rights to be recognised and equal.

I’m a Girlguiding volunteer working with girls and young women between the ages of 10 and 18. As young women, our focus is often steeped in compassion, with care and enveloped in a fairness for all. Every week I see the power of girl-led campaigning and community action. From addressing period poverty in our local village, meeting volunteers from Scottish Women’s Aid or challenging the idea of “women’s jobs” by meeting female vets, entrepreneurs and formula 4 racing drivers, political discourse will always be more vibrant and all-encompassing when we engage with it through our own diverse lived experiences in Scotland.

#ScotWomenStand in line to file important paperwork!

An early step in all of our political journeys is to register to vote. This isn’t just about being able to mark your ballot paper. Being on the electoral register could be your first step towards elected office. To become a Community Council (the most local form of representation), you, your proposer and seconder must all be on the electoral register. The Parliament Project helps you to #GetReadyToStand and part of that journey is being ready at a moment’s notice for a by-, general or even snap election! So get yourself on the electoral register pronto. That’s an easy first step.



Why I want to be a #ScotWomenStand / Hopes for my political career.

Laura rockin’ the #GetReadyToStand tote around the world!

Laura rockin’ the #GetReadyToStand tote around the world!

I knew I wanted to explore how to become more politically engaged long before I attended a Parliament Project workshop in Edinburgh in 2017. I’ve always had the itch to speak up in meetings to represent those with quieter voices, to share an alternative view or play devil’s advocate when a discussion was overtly one-sided. I was often labelled opinionated, feisty, a busy-body…all the usual adjectives used to devalue women. I used them as positive reflection and my own personal power up.

I was the first student (and female) to Chair the Student Representative Council at Dundee Uni, after graduation I went on to work in Westminster as a civil servant and followed that up with a stint working with the national body for local government in England & Wales. When I moved to Glasgow, after attending a couple of community councils I put myself forward for election and have worked my way up over the last few years to become the Chairperson. I’m the third female in succession as Chairperson of my community council. It is a well-known fact that there are more women in these community-led volunteering roles than men. And yet, we are few in numbers in elected capacities, held back by numerous barriers which our male-counterparts are privileged enough not to face. We must not forget that we are phenomenal multi-taskers in our personal, professional and community lives. A perfect quality for future elected members.

What I didn’t know back in December 2017 at the close of the Edinburgh workshop was how the Parliament Project would accelerate the pace of my political journey. As a member of their 2018 Peer Circle Cohort, the team would go on to help me articulate my strengths, commit to my personal pledges, push me towards completing weekly goals and supported my political ambitions by helping me map out my political pathway towards becoming an approved parliamentary candidate for my party. This journey took less than six months.

I love helping people. I fill my month running Guide and Ranger unit meetings, chairing my local Community Council, running several community-based social media channels, volunteering at Parliament Project events and working for a member-led organisation in a professional capacity. My hopes for my political career is simply an extension of this. To help more people in my community have a voice, to act with integrity and strip away all the negative, defensive and unnecessary political posturing I witness day in and day out locally and nationally. If we want to get anything meaningful done, we need to listen to one another, we need to use our lived experiences to work together through consensus and respectful compromise. And…we need more wummin in every tier of Scottish politics!

If I was brave enough I’d keep the Parliament Project’s mantra close to my heart and get, A women’s place is in… parliament, politics, power tattooed across my chest. The Scot in me wants to be a tad more crude in my encouragement of #ScotWomenStand... A woman’s place is wherever the f*** she wants it to be. I’ll see you there.

Kairin Van Sweeden - #ScotWomenRise Role Model & Supporter

Empowered and mobilised by the supportive community created through the 100 for the 100th events of June 2018, Kairin Van Sweeden has gone on to take serious steps towards standing for political office, expanding on her role as Leith SNP Women & Equalities Officer.

Kairin van Sweeden - Leith SNP Women and Equalities Officer

Kairin van Sweeden - Leith SNP Women and Equalities Officer

It was actually due to some bad luck with work in June 2017 that my working timetable changed and I was finally able to get along the branch meetings of Leith SNP. I immediately enjoyed being in the company of political, independence-seeking people.  Coming from a political family, I immediately felt comfortable and mentally stimulated - with a sense of purpose, which I hadn't felt since leaving university in 2015.

I am horrified by the injustices visited upon people by 10 years of austerity and this is on top of many others including the blatant tax evasion of the wealthy, the war in Iraq and the poll tax. There are way too many injustices in the UK actually. In January 2018, I also became involved in the 'Save Leith Walk' campaign and have been aghast at some of the injustices within our planning system. For example, how can several small, local businesses be destroyed at the whim of one larger business? How can a attractive and functional building be destroyed for no good reason apart from profit? There is so much that needs to change here.

After some meetings and campaigning, a few of my co-campaigners suggested that I should think about becoming a councillor but it wasn't until I attended the '100 for a 100' event that I started to think more seriously about standing for political office.

I know that many of my fears are the same as many other women, that is; "I am smart enough?", "Will I let the side down?" However, I realise now that politics is a Geekdom that many people don't inhabit and more women are needed to at least represent our society as it is. So, it is fundamentally for this reason that I think I should put my head above the parapet although I do so with a fair degree of trepidation.