Who’s getting our X – and why?

@Glesga_keelie takes a look through the party manifestos for the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections

I thought I’d take a peek inside the manifestos of the main political parties contesting the Scottish Parliament elections on May 6.

While there are some fringe parties standing, we’re concerned with the six parties likely to make up the incoming parliament.

Now, you may be the sort who loves nothing more than to pore over political commitments of an evening and work out which party is most likely to stand by their pledges or do a Nick Clegg/tuition fee reverse ferret.

But let’s face it, most of us have a life. Except me. I sacrificed myself so you don’t have to.

The point of #WomenVotingWithOurFeet is to remind politicians and political parties that women are 51 percent of the population.

We have our own rights, literally clawed out of men’s hands over decades by the brave women who came before us and enshrined in ground-breaking legislation.

We are not simply small men. We come with specific health needs unique to the female body, have particular social care requirements and responsibilities, and have been most impacted by Covid-19 in economic terms.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the manifesto promises aimed at and affecting women.

Edited to add here that I wanted to look at the parties’ commitment to gender self-ID – because any policy aimed specifically at women is not a single-sex policy where a party also advocates for self-ID.

The SNP

The party of government for the last 14 years has, it’s fair to say, not covered itself in much glory recently with its policies and legislation affecting women.

The SNP’s manifesto for women has bold commitments on improving women’s health, flexible working, expansion of childcare and promoting women in sport.

However, the party is still committed to reform of the Gender Recognition Act, and while there is no longer an explicit promise to introduce self-identification of “gender”, there is also a pledge that any reform won’t affect the rights and protections women currently have under the Equality Act 2010. ForWomen Scotland have done a much more forensic analysis of just how empty this particular promise might be.

If we judge a party on how it behaves in office and not simply the promises it makes during an election campaign, we might find the SNP guilty of doing one thing while saying another. You might call it lying. I could not possibly comment.

But look at how self-identification – where a man can simply declare himself a woman – has become de facto policy in a whole host of publicly funded organisations, such as the Scottish Prison Service, Police Scotland and a myriad of ostensibly female-only services such as Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis. All under SNP governance (and funding).

Throw in the furore over saying sex not gender when it comes to letting sexual-assault victims choose their forensic examiner and the farce of the Hate Crime Bill, which protects cross-dressing men but not women, and the SNP’s commitments to women and girls look on less solid ground.

Verdict: For the watching

Scottish Labour

Scottish Labour launched its main manifesto on Thursday but also had a specific launch for its women’s manifesto earlier this week. This makes similar promises to those of the SNP, particularly around childcare and improving healthcare for women. There’s also a pledge to bring forward an Equal Pay Scotland Act – a cute move by a party that controlled many of the councils that deliberately paid its female workers less than men for years, in cahoots with the unions.

The biggest pledge from Labour is the return of single-sex hospital wards, which is obviously hugely welcome. However, Labour isn’t clear on what it means when it says woman, since the party also backs GRA reform and has been keen on gender self-identification. How you can have single-sex wards when anyone can declare themselves the opposite sex is a circle that cannot be squared.

Verdict: Won’t be in government but could shape legislation

Scottish Conservatives

To no-one’s surprise, there is no specific section in the Scottish Conservatives’ manifesto dedicated to women. The word “women” appears just six times, in fact – but that’s six times more than it does in the Alliance 4 Unity manifesto. The Tories do want to reduce violence against women and girls, which has to be welcomed, but the rest of their focus is on the economy and in supporting families, which rather reduces women to economic or maternal units, in my opinion.

There’s no mention in the manifesto of the GRA. The Tories are unlikely allies to women in maintaining our current rights and protections, but politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

Verdict: Approach with care

Alba

The newest kids on the Scottish political block are Alba, established just last month by Alex Salmond with the express aim of creating an independence supermajority in Holyrood. The party held a women’s conference on April 13 and launched a women and equalities policy statement that commits Alba to “protect and preserve women’s rights, not at any expense to others, but as a safeguard for women and girls”.

As with the Women’s Pledge in the SNP and the Labour Women’s Declaration, this is definitely the sort of commitment #WomenVotingWithOurFeet are keen to see becoming embedded in all parties.

Verdict: Hard to see them making an immediate impact at Holyrood

Scottish Liberal Democrats

The Scottish Liberal Democrats make lots of manifesto pledges to improve the lot of women, all of which would be very welcome. But the LibDems are not operating with the definition of woman that most of us recognise and has been accepted for eons – that a woman is an adult, human female. The LibDems accept the idea that anyone who says they are a woman is one, just as they believe anyone who says they are a man is one (just like Labour).

So when they say they will “set a target of a 50:50 male to female split for apprenticeships”, this is a promise not worth the digital paper it’s written. Remember, too, Willie Rennie’s party was the only one, along with the Greens, to vote against the amendment by Johann Lamont MSP to change sex to gender and allow sexual-assault victims to choose the sex of their forensic examiner.

The LibDems want to decriminalise sex work, something that overwhelmingly affects vulnerable women, and are fully supportive of changes to the GRA, citing international best practice “to allow trans people to change the legal gender on their birth certificate with a simple process based on the principle of self-determination, and without intrusive medical diagnosis requirements…” That’s self-ID, by the way.

Verdict: Give them an X at your peril, women.

Scottish Greens

Well, where do we start? The Scottish Greens describe themselves as standing firmly for “inclusive, intersectional feminism”. It’s just that their feminism isn’t really for women at all. They, like the LibDems, are proponents of gender self-identification and believe anyone who says they are a woman is one.

They also want legal recognition of non-binary identities, which is baffling – if sex isn’t binary, surely we’re all non-binary? But so far, so intersectional.

More worryingly is that the Greens are committed to placing into law the controversial Yogyakarta Principles, which call for sex to be removed from birth certificates and for the abolition of all sex-based rights. Recently a signatory to those principles said those drawing them up had simply not considered the effects of this on women at all. So far, not very intersectional.

Verdict: You really need me to say anything here?

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