‘Embarrassing’ election result could be catalyst for women
THE ‘DEPRESSING and embarrassing’ outcome of the 2017 Western Isles Council election, where no women were successful, could be the catalyst the islands need, according to some.
For the first time in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's 20-year history, the council is comprised of entirely men.
Lesley McKenzie was one of only six women who stood in the May 4 election across the Western Isles. The mother- oftwo stood for South Stornoway and lost out to Neil MacKay but she told the Lochaber Times the concern over the lack of female representation far outweighs that of her own defeat.
She said: ‘ The outcome is hugely disappointing but there was only six females out of 60 candidates so in that sense it wasn't hugely surprising.
‘In the past few months, a group called Hebridean Women's Network has started up in recognition that whilst there are strong women in the area, there is not necessarily much female representation in public life. Around 30 women attended the initial meeting and we all came out buzzing.
‘As a result of that meeting, myself and Caroline Birch decided to stand.
‘It was a case of ‘ why not’ as opposed to something I’ve thought about before. I certainly hadn’t been planning my campaign for years.
‘I obviously wasn’t elected but came a lot closer than I thought. I was 11 votes behind the guy who was elected and he is a big employer,
He brings jobs to the area and perhaps that's what drives votes, especially in the current climate. But in Orkney they have 30 per cent female representation. It is sad we are going in the opposite direction from the rest of the world.’
Highlands and Islands results show the Scottish Conservatives made historic gains. Ranald Fraser from Benbecula was one of three members returned for the Sgir’ Uige agus Ceann a Tuath nan Loch ward. Party Leader Ruth Davidson congratulated the Highland Games champion’s appointment with a tweet.
Independents continued to dominate the Western Isles election, with 23 independent candidates elected, followed by seven SNP and one Conservative. There are no Labour councillors.
Mrs McKenzie continued: ‘There is energy here and the fact there's no female representation is ridiculous and embarrassing. We hope the group will raise awareness. The fact we have an all-male council will no doubt give us something to talk about and what we hope is it will be a catalyst. We need to examine why there are less women. Of course there are people who justify the outcome and say it is a democratic process so people vote the way they did because they wanted to, but there are men who say things need to change and it was actually men who encouraged me to stand.
‘What we need is to address barriers which perhaps exist more for women. Is childcare an issue, for example? There are circumstances which women have to grapple with more than some men. Definitely stepping into an environment which is a sea of men can be quite intimidating - no matter how strong you are.’
A Comhairle spokesperson said: ‘There were only six out of 60 candidates that were female so it was unlikely there would be many female members. Unfortunately none of the six were elected and that is far from ideal, resulting in no female representation for the first time on the Comhairle. It is, however, the result of democratic elections.’