In the week we lost Margo MacDonald, the SNP finally, finally announced some breakthrough policies for women.
Call it politics, call it one-upmanship (sic), I don’t care. I’m pretty proud that now 40% of the Scottish Cabinet are women, which contrasts sharply with the Bullingdon Club Cabinet, which, after losing the unfortunate Maria Miller now has no Minister for Women.
Cameron’s forced reshuffle now means the three women in official cabinet posts are Justine Greening, the development secretary, Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland secretary, and Theresa May, the home secretary. Miller’s departure also means there are now just three women running government departments out of a possible 22.
Salmond focused on ‘women’s issues’ throughout the speech, contrasting Westminster’s investment in £100 billion in Trident 2 with the SNP’s plans for ‘transformative childcare’ which he rightly credited to the sadly deceased Professor Ailsa McKay.
Robin McAlpine of the Reid Foundation has recalled when Ailsa met the FM at the inaugural Jimmy Reid Lecture. He remembers:
“When the First Minister asked her to do some work on childcare economics her response was so typically Ailsa – “are you serious about doing this? If you’re serious about this policy, if you mean it, then I’d be delighted. But you have to mean it.”
It seems he means it, announcing today high quality universal childcare and early learning for all of Scotland’s children:
Transforming childcare will open up opportunities for many more women in Scotland. But our ambitions must go further.
An equal opportunity to join the workforce – and an equal opportunity within the workforce.
In an independent Scotland we will want our companies to aspire to at least 40 per cent female participation on their boards. And we will have the power to enforce the Equal Pay Act. This issue of equality, of equal opportunities, is of the highest importance.
True equality – rightly (and about bloody time) – is coming to the centre stage of the independence discussion.
Promoting Shona Robison (Minister for Equality) and Angela Constance (Cabinet Secretary for training, youth and female employment) to the full cabinet wasn’t just a symbolic act, it allies the government practice with the policy.
Shona Robison has been doing a great job. I love her celebration of our athletes and our women sporting figures. Her twitter stream is full of the Scottish Women’s Football team.
Again – it contrasts with the Tory Sports Minister Helen Grant who suggested we need to get girls into sports through cheerleading so they don’t feel ‘unfeminine’ (‘Bungling Tory Sports Minister Helen Grant says girls should get into sport through CHEERLEADING‘).
An idea which – incidentally – had my teenage daughter practicing her shot-putt lobbing objects at the telly.
These announcements today are excellent and to be welcomed. But this mustn’t be just window dressing.
The childcare announcements, whilst welcome, must be properly funded and not just an excuse for low quality provision to help women into low quality, low-paid, temporary jobs. That’s not ‘trans-formative’.
We need to take this opportunity to begin to create innovative stimulating child care – and real equality in meaningful work for women. Let’s not rush people back to work for the sake of it – let’s create useful work in useful industry, and let’s value motherhood as well, possibly the most important job in the world.
The 40% rule is a significant and very welcome announcement, but I’ll wait to see the detail. But we don’t want equality in a corporate world we want to create a better society that throws off corporate values.