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Gender & Devolution

November 25, 2010

Following today’s event at the Pierhead Building which explored the issue of gender and devolution, Rosemary Butler, the current Deputy Presiding Officer, claimed on Waleshome that “the National Assembly for Wales and Scottish Parliament have become widely recognised as beacons of progress in establishing higher levels of representation for women in politics.

This is hard to deny.

The Welsh Assembly can currently boast that 46.7% of its members are female.

The Scottish Parliament is, by my reckoning, just shy of 35%.

Comparing this to the record of the UK Government is frankly embarrassing: 22% of MPs are women.

This raises questions of why this should be the case and what effect it might have.

In answer to the first question, Rosemary Butler claims that the Welsh Assembly is just more “family friendly”.

It’s well documented that sessions in the House of Commons can go on late into the night (though this document generously claims that it is rare that sittings go on after midnight).

In the Welsh Assembly, Butler tells us, sittings rarely go beyond 6pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays – when they are held. Committee sessions are also held withing business hours.

The Scottish Parliament also tries to operate within normal office hours.

The effects of this have been pronounced but perhaps not surprising.

A study into the way Welsh politics is carried out discovered that more female voices in the Assembly made debate more consensual and less adversarial.

Just as it has done in Wales, the number of female members in the Scottish Parliament has also apparently boosted issues such as domestic violence.

Discussions on topics like education are also less blinkered. Previously it was all about schools and universities. Now it’s also about the early years of education.

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