Council Elections 2012 - More female candidates needed in Borders, says councillor

A CALL has been made for more females candidates to stand for council elections in the Borders.

And Tweeddale West councillor Catriona Bhatia queried whether the use of quotas to increase female representatives could be introduced in Scotland.

Mrs Bhatia was reacting to statistics that the Borders had fewer woman seeking council office than the Scottish average.

Only 15 out of 72 candidates, or 20.8 per cent, are female in this region, compared to 23.6 per cent across the country.

A report by Dr Meryl Kenny and Dr Fiona Mackay of Edinburgh University has called for more woman to involve in local democracy to improve work on issues such as domestic violence and childcare.

And Mrs Bhatia shares both academics’ views.

She said: “I have raised this issue several times during the last council term, when we only had six female councillors out of 34.

“If only 20 per cent of the candidates are woman you are not getting a fair representation of the Borders’ female population at the council.

“I do think it is a real problem and although it goes against my liberal views, it is interesting that emerging countries such as India now have quotas for females in all its legislatures, from parliament down to the local councils.

“India is working on this whereas we do not seem to be.”

Mrs Bhatia says she does not know why woman are reluctant to stand in council elections.

She added: “Being a councillor is a very flexible job to have for a working mother as a lot of the council meetings are during the day when the kids are at school and for meetings at night a childminder can be used.

“It is much easier than a 9 to 5 job in that respect.

“There is still a male hierarchy in many areas such as business and politics but I look at the way the teaching profession has managed to break through with the number of female staff now employed.

“Also, we now have a female chief executive at SBC, where before we never even had a female director.”

Outgoing Borders Conservative leader Carolyn Riddell-Carre called for a quota, but on the length of time a councillor can serve for, rather than any gender issue.

She added: “Politics is a hugely demanding business, it’s rather like a drug, and it’s possible to carry on too long.

“I think that there should be a limit to the amount of terms anyone can serve in politics whether it be in Westminster, Holyrood or on a council.

“I don’t think it’s right that people should go on and on in any political job just to have a top-up to their pension. I certainly think the list system at Holyrood should be looked at afresh.

“When you look at the various councillors serving on SBC there is a very wide range of abilities both among the female councillors and the male ones.

“As Bernard Shaw said when asked who was more intelligent a man or a woman, he replied ‘It depends which man and which woman’.”