Ken MacIntosh MSP has responded to LWN’s letter to him, and this is what he said:
Dear Marie and Melanie,
Thank you for your letter on behalf of the Labour Women’s Network.
I strongly support you raising these issues with the Leadership candidates during the Scottish leadership contest and am pleased to respond to you on the points you raised.
I agree that the Labour Party, and Scottish Labour in particular, has a proud record in supporting measures to increase women’s representation and challenge gender inequality across society as a whole. However, as you highlighted the fact that retiring women MSPs were not replaced by other female candidates, we cannot afford to be complacent about this issue simply because of our record from over ten years ago.
Labour can be proud that the Scottish Parliament was once one of the top-five legislatures leading the world in the gender balance. Sadly since a high of nearly 40% women MSPs in the 2003 election, this number has declined and we are in the worrying situation where only 34.8% of MSPs following the 2011 election are women. Our Labour group of MSPs – for the first time since devolution – now has fewer than 50% women.
This is concerning and shows why we cannot go on as before. Despite the fact that Labour is in a better position that the Lib Dem, SNP or Conservative parties, it is simply unacceptable that prior to 2011, all our vacant winnable constituency seats had male candidates. The party must abandon the inaction on gender equality which I believe was allowed to take place immediately prior to 2011 and led to this situation.
Your letter to me asked three specific questions:
What would you do to champion positive action in elections and ensure we take strides towards equal gender representation at every level?
I want to see the Labour Party be a movement that involves all our members and is truly democratic. As a member I have supported every positive measure we have taken to promote equal gender representation and as Leader, I will continue to take action to ensure the Labour Party moves towards equality, not just in the Scottish Parliament, but in Westminster and for our local elections.
A report on the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections for Engender described women’s representation as “not falling but stalling”. I believe the 2011 elections show that gender equality in our Parliaments and Councils cannot be left to chance. I recognise that a range of different mechanisms can achieve gender equality most effectively. I think the twinning undertaken prior to 1999 was effective and fair, and needs to be reconsidered. By working with the SEC and local parties I will ensure selection procedures are fair and balanced and include twinning of seats, zipping on regional lists, gender balance in short-listing and, where appropriate, all–women shortlists, with clearer and consistent criteria as to where and when they are applied.
As the LWN will be more than aware, it is vital that aspiring candidates, including women have the skills and training to support them in the selection process. I have committed to create a properly resourced Future Candidates’ Programme to help support the selection of candidates from under-represented groups, including women.
How would you ensure that Scottish Labour reaches out to women in our Party and across Scotland?
It is not just our selection procedures which must be utilised to promote gender equality. I recognise that we must reach out to our grassroots membership to involve women in their local parties, to encourage more women to be involved in campaigning in their communities by becoming office-bearers within their local parties and at other levels of the party.
I believe that the party should not presume that women are only interested in a few policy areas. I am certain that women care just as much as men about jobs, the economy, crime and justice, and healthcare – but there are some issues which disproportionately impact on women’s lives such as childcare, or domestic abuse.
Labour has a strong record on speaking out on such issues and as Leader, I will continue our commitment to improve rape conviction rates, to end the scandal of childhood poverty and the lack of decent affordable housing for all.
We do not need to change what we believe in but we need to change how we do and say things and how we present our policies. We need to change the way we present ourselves to the voters but we also must improve our organisation so we are ready to fight the next election.
That is why I have pledged to involve members every year in a permanent review of the party – not just when we lose elections – and it is vital that women’s voices have a part to play in that. I am particularly interested in the views of LWN as to how we do that.
What is your vision for tackling the gender inequalities that are so pervasive across Scottish society?
Pervasive gender stereotyping impacts on girls’ and women’s career choices in life. Too often so-called ‘women’s jobs’ are in low paid sectors. Where this is highlighted is the stark facts surrounding the continuing stereotyping of apprenticeships. The highest paid modern-apprenticeships, and the ones with the lowest drop-out rates, engineering for example, are overwhelmingly dominated by men. We must also work to tackle the gender pay gap and as the father of four daughters I do not accept that they deserve anything less than fair treatment according to their abilities and talents.
I am committed to the introduction of a Living Wage, and as we saw with the introduction of the National Minimum Wage, recognise that this will increase income levels for the lowest paid in our society, many of whom are women.
Violence against women and the shockingly low rape conviction rate in Scotland must be addressed, including by radical changes to the criminal justice system and the police approach to violent sexual crimes. We must challenge the victim-blaming culture which still stigmatises women who have been raped or survived domestic abuse. Not all men are responsible for these terrible acts, but I believe all men have a responsibility to challenge them.
As a husband with a young family, I know that childcare is every bit an issue for men as it is for women and one that I hope men are increasingly willing to take their share of and play a part in.
In conclusion, I believe we need a kinder, more caring society and I recognise that gender inequality in Scottish society hurts every member of it. I want a future which is fair for all our children, not just our sons.
Finally, I am delighted become a supporter of the Labour Women’s Network. Having spoken with representatives from LWN at your stand at Labour Party Conference in Liverpool this autumn, I know what an excellent opportunity this is for men within the party to support the vital work of the Labour Women’s Network and I look forward to supporting the Labour Women’s Network in Scotland.