Publications / Reports

Has Devolution Delivered for Women?

24 May 2010
Scottish Parliament, Holyrood

This 2010 report reviewed women's representation in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly a decade after devolution. The report concluded that the battle for women's equal representation in Edinburgh and Cardiff was far from won, and that urgent further action was needed to ensure that the progress of the previous decade would be sustained in the next.

The establishment of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly was accompanied by hopes of a 'new politics', involving, among other things, significantly higher women's representation than at Westminster. In the first elections to the devolved legislatures in 1999, 37% of seats in Edinburgh and 40% in Cardiff were won by women. But in the 2007 elections, the proportion of women in the Scottish Parliament fell to 33%, and even in Wales the number of women constituency candidates declined. By 2010 there were concerns that the 2011 devolved elections would see progress stalling further.

In light of these trends, British Council Scotland commissioned Has Devolution Delivered for Women? to reflect on women's representation in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, ten years after the devolved legislatures were first elected and 20 years after the report of the Hansard Society Commission on Women at the Top. The report, by Joyce McMillan and Ruth Fox, investigated trends in women's representation in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, analysed drivers of and obstacles to progress, and explored women's impact on policy and the culture of politics in Scotland and Wales.

  • Voluntary action by political parties is not enough. The progress it delivers is vulnerable both to change within key parties and to the shifting balance of power between them. There is therefore a case for reopening the debate about whether equal representation of women should be guaranteed by constitutional and electoral law, rather than purely by action within parties. An inquiry similar to the Speaker’s Conference on Parliamentary Representation held at Westminster in 2008-10 is needed in Scotland and Wales to look in detail at the issues and make recommendations.

  • Given the apparently strengthening media tendency to present politics as a theatre of conflict and personal destruction, a case can also be made for a new ‘King Report’ on gender and the media in politics, along the lines of Sir Anthony King’s Report on the BBC’s coverage of the devolved institutions, to explore how current assumptions about newsworthiness affect perceptions of women politicians and their work.

  • There has been a change in culture towards a ‘new politics’ in Edinburgh and Cardiff, in terms of less confrontational and less party-bound ways of working. But there is a growing perception that Holyrood, in particular, is increasingly reverting to Westminster-style confrontational politics. The debate about how to avoid this needs to be reopened.

  • The dramatic increase in women’s representation at the dawn of devolution was achieved through strong, well-organised campaigning across a range of parties and organisations. The time has come to start rebuilding these alliances within Scotland and Wales, across the UK and internationally. To support a new campaign there is a need especially for structures and institutions which enable dialogue among women across the generations – for example, the idea of a Women’s Centre close to the Scottish Parliament was proposed in 1999 but did not come to fruition, and should be revisited.

  • Preface

  • Introduction

  • Part 1: Changing Numbers: Women's Representation in Scotland and Wales

  • Part 2: Changing Politics, Changing Culture: Women at Work in the Devolved Legislatures and Civil Society

  • Conclusion

  • Appendix 1: Election Results 1999-2007

  • Appendix 2: Seminar Attendees - 25 January 2010

News / Parliament Matters – Legislative bodging: No way to run a chip shop! (Episode 6)

Mark and Ruth look at the growing fashion for re-writing Bills mid-air as they pass through Parliament, adding on all sorts of policy bells and whistles at the last minute.

24 Nov 2023
Read more

Publications / Delegated Legislation: What types are there, and how are they made?

Delegated legislation is the most common form of legislation in the United Kingdom. It is the legislation of everyday life, impacting millions of citizens daily. But the terminology and procedures that surround it are complex and often confusing. This explainer unpacks delegated legislation - the terminology and Parliament's role in scrutinising it - to reveal more about how delegated legislation really works.

05 Dec 2023
Read more

News / Parliament Matters: Total reshuffle, emergency legislation and Parliament’s ‘Golden Ticket’ (Episode 4)

What a week! Suella Braverman's sacking from Government was immediately eclipsed by the appointment of former Prime Minister David Cameron as the new Foreign Secretary. Mark and Ruth explore the many questions this raises, not least for scrutiny of foreign affairs by MPs.

17 Nov 2023
Read more

Blog / HS2 fiasco: What does it mean for Parliament?

The Prime Minister’s decision to cancel the next stage of HS2 has given rise to criticism that once again the Government has ridden roughshod over Parliament. Just over 1,300 hours of legislative time have been spent on four HS2-related Bills over nine Sessions in the last decade. Why has it taken so long and what now happens to that legislation?

15 Oct 2023
Read more

Briefings / 6 things to look out for in Parliament in the next Session

When parliamentarians reassemble at Westminster on 7 November for the start of the new Session, all eyes will be on the legislative programme to be announced in the King’s Speech. Speculation about the likely date of the next general election is rife at Westminster, but until the date is settled there are a lot of parliamentary issues still to be tackled. We’ve picked out a few things to look out for on the political horizon.

07 Nov 2023
Read more