Scottish Labour must put women in the driving seat, says Leonard

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Scottish Labour will implement all-women shortlists in selections for Holyrood and Westminster, leader Richard Leonard has confirmed.

Speaking at the Scottish Labour Women’s Conference on Saturday, Mr Leonard said the party needs to have “women in the driving seat”.

There have only been 491 female MPs since women first gained the right to stand for election to the House of Commons 100 years ago.

Two of the party’s seven Scottish MPs are women, whilst 11 of the 23 Scottish Labour MSPs at the Scottish Parliament are women.

Addressing the conference, Mr Leonard said: “Influential and inspiring women in our labour movement, are not just part of our history – You are part of our present and future as well.

“That strength and passion lives on, you are both shaping and driving our party, with commitment, resolve and an unwavering belief, in the power of this party and this movement to change lives.

“While much of that work will be done when we form the next Scottish and UK Labour governments, there are steps that we can take now.”

In his speech, the Scottish Labour leader called for 50:50 representation on the board of the new Scottish National Investment Bank, which is expected to be established by 2020.

Mr Leonard also apologised to the thousands of council workers who went on strike in Glasgow last month calling for the settlement of an equal pay dispute.

He said: “We owe an apology to all of those women workers who were forced to strike for equal pay earlier this month.

“Women who faced, and continue to face obstruction and legal obstacle: in an example of corporate management of the very worst kind.

“They have our support and our solidarity because if we, the Labour Party, do not represent working class women’s interests on local councils, they are not represented at all.”

In his speech, Mr Leonard reiterated his calls for the Scottish Government to effectively abolish Westminster’s two-child benefit cap and the so-called “rape clause” in the Holyrood Budget.

He said: “The two-child cap and resulting rape clause are abhorrent and must be scrapped. Here in Scotland, we could do so with the stroke of a pen, and help protect women from the worst effects of a Tory government.

“The entire purpose of the Scottish Parliament is to allow Scotland to make different choices. Scotland has the power to build a fairer social security system. The SNP government must use its budget to end this injustice in Scotland once and for all.

“While we will never stop the fight against the Tories, we can protect working people, and working women, from the worst of their policies.

“For the avoidance of doubt, Scottish Labour’s position is not that the SNP should do this, it is that the SNP must do this.”

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