Women and the Referendum

Marlyn Glen

29 June 2012

Media froth claims that the campaign to keep Scotland in the UK has the alleged deficiency of “lacking passion” compared with that of the pro-independence movement.

Passion, however, is no substitution for reason, and we have been here before regularly in politics.

For “passion” read instead :

 Style rather than substance

Personalities rather than policies

 Assertion rather than evidence.

We are entitled to expect a case based on reasoned argument to be the mainstay of the pro- independence campaign, and the largest single group in Scotland that the pro-independence campaign needs to persuade of this is women.

 Opinion polls in Scotland have consistently shown that women are far more sceptical than men of the case for independence.

 Indeed, YouGov’s poll of those who voted SNP in last year’s Scottish Parliament elections found that that while 71 per cent of male SNP voters woud vote for an independent Scotland in a referendum, only a minority of female SNP voters – 45 per cent- would .

With women holding the key to the outcome of the Referendum, issues such as family, health, education and care of the elderly in an independent Scotland should be of primary concern.

So far though, much of the debate has focused predominantly on membership of NATO , and the size and location of Scotland’s armed forces, predominantly of interest to men.

Men were for the main part the front of the launch of the pro-independence campaign.

Male international stars jetted in or gave a video message to talk about their passion for Scotland, while at the same time unwittingly lending support to the observation that some of those who are the most enthusiastic for constitutional change are those who live furthest away from it.

The only matter even approaching a "women’s issue" if it could ever be called that, to be raised so far , concerns just one woman – Elizabeth II – who would remain head of state in an independent Scotland, according to the First Minister who now talks fondly of "Elizabeth, Queen of Scots"

 Much of the media coverage of the referendum campaign has consisted of the process of the Referendum .

While they have engrossed themselves in matters such as one or two questions, Salmond meets Moore, devo-max, challenge in the courts, wording of the question, Alex Salmond may hold his own referendum , etc., etc., people in Scotland have told pollsters what their own real, important issues are - the economy (51%) ; Unemployment ( 21%); education (21%) , public spending cuts ("20%) and independence only 16 per cent) - Future Scotland poll.

And it appears that most have already made up their minds on how they’ll be voting in the Referendum.

Polls tell us that  amongst those expressing a voting intention for any party , only 13 per are undecided on how they will vote.

The figures drops to 11 per cent amongst those who say they are certain to vote.

Polling predicts that turn out could rise to almost 80 per cent   

So, if these polls are accurate, then the rival campaigns will be competing for a relative small minority of voters.

Undecided women voters who are still waiting for the debate to begin on their preferred issues of importance, will also have the record of the Nationalists in power to consider.

Women make up the majority of the workforce in many parts of the public sector such as the NHS and local government.

The experience of women there has been the loss of thousands of nursing posts in the NHS , and thousands too in councils across Scotland.

Political representation should mirror civic society.

Yet, the gender balance amongst SNP MSPs is only 19 women out of 69 in toal ( just over 1 in 4 )

Jenny Marra’s amendment to the Police and Fire Reform Bill, calling for a minimum representation of 40 per cent women and 40 % men on the new single police board was voted down by the SNP at the Bill’s committee stage.

At present, the pro-independence tactic is to soothe away fears and misgivings about separating with a "you won’t notice the difference" assurance - the £ will be retained ( under foreign control), the Queen will remain as head of state, and Scotland will be a member of NATO.

Such " the more things change, the more they remain the same" approaches are double-edged, which will leave many women concluding, "Why change at all, then?"

And there’s yet another matter of importance to women.

I’ve written before that ,

"It's the heckling, name-calling, rudeness, finger pointing, aggressive, competitive, ego-preening behaviour of some male politicians that turn a lot of women off politics."

The broadcaster, Lesley Riddoch, in that vein, makes this important observation on what may await women over the next two years of the campaign.

"Women are generally dubious about men with an overriding sense of mission or a throbbing vein on the forehead when they speak.

"Toughing out controversy and appearing to spoil for a fight may earn respect from male commentators and small armies of cyber-angry, anonymous men.  

"Clever dick answers, snide-sounding put downs and swaggering arrogance turn off watching women as swiftly as they appear to engage watching men. "

Let’s hope as well that the referendum campaign can produce a new national identity that replaces the obstinately masculine Scottish identity through symbols such as Wallace, Bruce, and a separate Scottish international football team.

Let’s include women in that identity , let's celebrate their achievements and their potential in post-Referendum Scotland .... and let's be aware that Scotland’s male international football team’s FIFA world ranking is currently 41; Scotland’s international female football team’s FIFA world ranking is 21.


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