Hi, I’m Lauren. Some of you might know me – during the referendum I wrote a letter to the Wee Ginger Dug about my journey from No to Yes. I’m a true convert, and once I crossed over I got busy – I leafleted and canvassed and worked my socks off as most activists do. I never joined the SNP because on the doorsteps I liked being able to say “it’s not all about the SNP, I’m not a member”.
But after the referendum I did join. I joined because I knew that I could still be actively involved in campaigning for independence. Within a few months I was chosen to be Branch Organiser in my hometown of Bathgate. Every time a new leaflet came out I counted 10,000 leaflets into their individual runs and delivered them to volunteers and I delivered the ones that that no one else wanted to do after I’d done my own.
I organised training days and visited new members, encouraging them to get involved. Wednesday nights and Friday afternoons were spent on canvassing sessions. For the by-election in nearby Armadale I’d get up on a Saturday morning, leave the kids with my partner and chap doors. On other Saturdays I manned street stalls.
Monday and Tuesday were spent building the constituency website where each of the branches could have space to communicate outside the confines of internal emails but in private. I went to constituency meetings and was also made Political Education Officer. I was actively campaigning full-time while having a job, four young children and a house to run.
I didn’t mind that I had very little time to see my friends, I didn’t mind that I had to give up our family time at the weekends, I didn’t mind that my petrol budget doubled, I didn’t mind that I missed my wee girl singing solo at a school opening ceremony because I was out canvassing. It was all for the cause, for a better Scotland
Yesterday I resigned from the SNP because the party told me I was second-class.
I’m not some weak little girl who needs a “gender equality mechanism” to succeed. I’m no less capable than any woman in Holyrood right now. But the amendment passed yesterday morning said I am.
I will not tell my daughters they’re not capable of achieving what their brothers can achieve. I will not sit meekly by and blindly accept these backwards, discriminatory quotas. I will not be told that all-women shortlists are only an “option” and that makes it alright. I will not participate in a party that doesn’t know what equality is.
I listened very carefully on Saturday as buzzwords like “equality”, “social justice” and “fairness” were parroted over and over as if somehow repeating them enough times meant they’d happen. On Sunday morning the opposite of “equality” happened, and it happened with the full support of the leadership.
(To the point of bad manners – it’s bloody rude to get up and walk off stage when someone is making their argument. Someone opposing also had their mic turned off after their three minutes while they were still speaking, but someone supporting the amendment was allowed to continue after their time was up. “Equality”, I suppose.)
Along with many others I’d put my card in against the amendment, but though I was told I’d be heard I didn’t get to speak. This is what I wanted to say:
“I have three minutes to ensure womens rights aren’t taken back 100 years.
I’m opposing this motion because I believe men and women are equal. I was encouraged to speak today by a fellow member, a person who’s been SNP most of their adult life. A very hard-working individual who’s commanded my respect and admiration in all the time I’ve known them.
That person felt their opposition to this amendment would be perceived by some as sexist. I find that quite ironic given what this amendment is proposing.
This proposal means biasing the system to advantage some people over others based on their gender. This idea that gender equality can only be achieved by treating people unequally is wrong.
It doesn’t address why women are choosing more men candidates and it doesn’t address why more women don’t stand. It says that Nicola Sturgeon and Roseanna Cunningham and Shona Robison and Angela Constance and Fiona Hyslop are better than you or I, that we can’t achieve what they achieved unless we get an unfair advantage.
It doesn’t address any of the issues it claims unbalance our system.
It doesn’t tell us why John Swinney is apparently less able to represent his female constituents, yet a woman would be able to represent both sexes.
It doesn’t tell us how we can address the class imbalance, where working-class women currently can’t afford to give up jobs, pay for childcare and so on, but wealthier ones can.
In fact it’ll make it worse, because working-class men – who suffer less from those issues – will now be excluded from standing in favour of middle-class women. And women with kids will be pitted against those without.
We’ve been told relentlessly that gender quotas are a blunt but progressive method. They are, in the same way you could use an electric stone-grinder to brush your teeth. It’d certainly mean never having dirty teeth again, but not in the way you really wanted.
Instead of having women standing and being selected and respected, they’ll be viewed as the best of the ones we had to have.
It also tells men that we’re the opposition, instead of their colleagues. It says to them ‘Don’t bother joining your local branch of the SNP, because you won’t be allowed to be a candidate, but hey, you can post the leaflets so we don’t break our nails.’
It means writing off half the population before we’ve considered their ability. We’ll be saying we’d have turned away the former First Minister, purely because he had a penis. ‘Sorry, Alex, we’ve got too many men at the moment, here’s some envelopes to stuff.’
This ‘gender balance equality’ is not equality. it takes women’s rights back to the days where we were justifying our right to be heard.
It’s an agenda that will see the rise of people looking at women in politics as less able, rightly or wrongly. The fact is, they wont be given the opportunity to stand against all the competition and prove their worth.
Let’s not plaster over those issues with a quick fix that will inevitably revert back to the status quo, or worse – women once more being wrongly viewed as less equal, less able and ultimately inferior.”