‘Abuse and misogyny’ driving women away from standing in South Ayrshire Council election

Less than a quarter of candidates standing at the upcoming South Ayrshire Council elections are women, largely due to the level of abuse and misogyny which comes their way.

Just 14 of the 60 candidates standing in May are women, 23.3 percent of the total.

In one ward, Prestwick, there will be no female candidate at all.

It is one of the few areas where parties agree on at least one of the underlying problems that face female candidates — that of persistent abuse and misogyny.

While the onus has often failed on the political parties to push towards equality, it is striking that the biggest imbalance can be seen among independent candidates, with just one woman among the ten candidates.

Martin Dowey, Conservative group leader says impact of abuse has made it hard to recruit female candidates.

The SNP, which has aimed for a 50/50 split in candidates nationally, has the highest proportion among the three main parties, with four female candidates out of 13, around 30 percent.

At the last election, three of the nine SNP councilors returned was female.

The Conservatives have the same number of women standing, but this is just over 21 percent of their 19 candidates. In 2017, just one of their 11 elected members, Margaret Toner, was female.

Labour, also had one female candidate elected in 2017, Helen Moonie, out of five councilors in total.

South Ayrshire Conservatives leader Martin Dowey admitted that the problem stemmed from the treatment female candidates from all parties receive.

SNP South Ayrshire
The SNP has the highest percentage of female council candidates among the three main parties in South Ayrshire.

He said: “We tried hard to find female candidates, but it has been very difficult to get them to stand due to the toxic abuse candidates of all parties sometimes receive.”

SNP leader Peter Henderson also raised the issue of abuse, but said that the issue was more complex, with several factors being involved.

He said: “I know that the SNP have made strenuous efforts to encourage female candidates as well as disabled and minority candidates in this election. Including support and innovations

“Unfortunately feedback indicates that the lengthy working hours, poor salary, and issues regarding childcare along with abuse etc have dissuaded many worthy candidates from standing.

“The party and COSLA are seeking to address these matters.

“The work of a councilor involves out of normal hours working, travel and weekend working. Annual salary for a councilor is £17,000 and childcare costs etc make a significant difference. Let alone family life being disrupted.

“It has also become clear that the level of abuse and misogyny has increased especially on social media and this has an effect on all councillors. Abusive emails and phone calls directed at female candidates has also increased.

“A change in society attitudes is needed, and that includes the press.”

In East Ayrshire the figures are somewhat better, though still fail to come close to the aim of parity.

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The SNP comes closest, with eight out of its 17 female candidates, just over 47 percent.

Labor aren’t far behind, with five of its 11 candidates, just over 45 percent.

A third of the Conservative’s nine candidates are also female.

EAC returned 12 female councilors in 2017, or 37.5 percent of the total.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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