Thursday, January 09, 2014

A polite request to all Scottish male politicians and political commentators

Scotland may be involved in a long and often bad-tempered referendum campaign, but there are still some issues that unite people across the political divide. You can guarantee that at least once a fortnight, I'll complain on Twitter about yet another panel of men in suits who have been brought together to opine on the relative merits of Yes Scotland and Better Together. And people from all sides of the referendum campaign, whether they believe in devo plus, devo max, Jacobite or Hanoverian monarchs, euros, groats or pounds (in or out of a currency union) agree with me. 

Too often the panellists and commentators are all men, as was the case on Newsnight Scotland last night. I guess they thought they'd had one woman (the excellent Kezia Dugdale) on this week so they could relax. I've also seen all male entire programmes. 

You do rarely get all female panels, when producers feel shamed into it, but they discuss things like the lack of women's voices in the debate rather than the substantive issues of the referendum.

As Kate Higgins put it last night:

We have tried complaining to the producers, but nothing ever seems to change. 

So, it's time to go a little further. And for that, we need the help of Scotland's progressive male politicians and political commentators to follow the example Mark Pack set last year. If all of you simply refused to take part in all-male panels, the producers would know that they would have to put more effort into making sure that they invited more women.  That doesn't mean that they get away with having just one woman and a whole load of men. Ideally you need more balance than that. 

A quick chat amongst half a dozen people on Twitter had about 30 different names of good women on both sides of the debate. I can think of at least another 20 more we should be hearing from. You would think from the panel discussions up until now that Scotland was made up of around 20% women rather than us being the majority of the population. It's not fair that our views, diverse that they are, are being frozen out because producers call the usual male suspects. 

Gerry Hassan is on board with this idea, tweeting today:

So, men of the Scottish political scene, will you take the pledge. Will you refuse to take part in all-male panels? The whole debate will be a lot healthier if you do. A debate that does not reflect the true Scotland is no debate at all. You can help make it what it should be. 

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