‘Em­bar­rass­ing’ elec­tion re­sult could be cat­a­lyst for women

The Oban Times - - NEWS - MON­ICA GIB­SON mgib­son@oban­times.co.uk

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.’

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