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Why does the south of Scotland have just two female election candidates? - Border

The south of Scotland's election candidates. Credit: ITV Border

Twelve candidates are standing for election in the south of Scotland's three constituencies, but only two of them are women.

Dumfries and Galloway:

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale:

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk:

The region's constituencies have never had a female MP, although before the boundaries changed Judith Hart spent four years as the Labour MP for Clydesdale (now part of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale).

Judith Hart, Minister for Overseas Development, in 1977. Credit: PA

However, despite all of the south of Scotland's MPs being male, the majority of the area's MSPs are women.

The leaders of both Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council are also female, but Elaine Murray, who spent 17 years as a Labour MSP, says she's still disappointed the General Election candidate lists are so male-dominated.

I think it is disappointing that women aren't coming forwards. I don't think it's so much about women not being selected, it's actually, certainly from my knowledge here, that there are not the women coming forwards.

Women will look at it and say you know I'd rather not do that, and women say to me, you know, I wouldn't have your job.

It's a personal disappointment to me because I would have hoped the fact that I had been an MSP here for 17 years might have encouraged other women to think maybe that's something they can do. It doesn't seem to have made a lot of difference unfortunately.

– Elaine Murray, Leader, Dumfries and Galloway Council

The south of Scotland may have a particularly high number of male candidates, but female representation remains an issue across Scotland.

Of the major parties, only Scottish Labour has put forwards more men than women (although the Scottish Greens have a 50-50 gender balance).

51% of Scotland's population is female. Credit: ITV Border

The Scottish Conservatives have selected a record number of female candidates, but it's still well below 50%.

Annie Wells MSP told us the abuse she, and other female politicians, face on social media could be putting women off.

It was quite worrying to see the amount of abuse that comes out especially on a day we're talking about the number of female candidates. We are making progress and I would challenge anyone to challenge me on my policies, challenge me on my politics, but don't have a pop at me personally because at the end of the day I'm still a person.

– Annie Wells MSP, Scottish Conservatives

The group Women 50:50 wants legal changes to be introduced to improve the representation of women in Scottish politics.

They are campaigning for quotas, which would compel parties to put forward at least 50% female candidates for Scottish Parliament and council elections.

I think there's a lot of myths about gender quotas, that they produce unqualified candidates, that they discriminate against men in particular. But the evidence shows us quota women are just as, if not more, qualified than their non-quota counterparts. What quotas do is they really level the playing field.

The South of Scotland MSP Christine Grahame (SNP), who is also Deputy Presiding Officer at the Scottish Parliament, does not think legal quotas should be introduced.

She argues it would be positive discrimination, and says the focus should be on educating and encouraging women to be politically active.

I personally don't believe in positive discrimination. I believe everyone, no matter who, no matter what, should be in place, whether a teacher or a lawyer, or a politician, though their ability and suitability for the job.

That said, there is no doubt that young girls and young women I think lack confidence for coming into politics. I came in because a woman encouraged me to come in, and that's what I do, personally I hope I encourage women who are interested.

– Christine Grahame MSP, SNP

Last updated Thu 21 Nov 2019

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