Women are used to being wooed and promised the Earth by politicians during election periods, and this one was no different. “Women’s issues” such as high quality childcare were on the agenda. This time is different though as we have found our voices and politics may never be the same again.
The challenge to those of us on the left is to encourage and support these new voices which must be heard. It is usual for the political classes to expect post any election for business to continue as usual but this time it is different. Instead of tributes of flowers, Yes voters are bringing shopping bags to George Square.
Thousands have applied to join Yes supporting parties, including the SSP. The people are no longer content to leave matters to the politicians in the parliaments but want to take matters into their own hands. It is the same for the thousands of women who have been energised by the Yes movement. We want change and recognition.
The political parties on the left have a challenge. How do we continue the reaction which is shaking politics? How can we ensure women become more centre stage? How can we ensure women feel welcomed and remain active? Both the campaigns Yes and No were guilty of stereotyping women. Yes with its emphasis on childcare as a universal panacea and No with its “ordinary housewives” and cups of tea.
The reality is that although we share a gender and common struggles we are all different and unique. This referendum journey has made us much more aware of just how patronising politicians especially male ones can be and it is something we won’t tolerate any longer. The next few years will be interesting for us.
The next round of Westminster cuts will again put women and children first. The Labour Party announced at their conference they would freeze child benefit. This is a universal benefit that everyone agrees is a major weapon in the fight against child poverty.
We know we can expect no kindness from any future Labour or Conservative governments. The cuts at Westminster will be backed up by cuts to local services. Women must unite to fight these. To testify to the impact on our lives. There will be more demands for the infrastructure of politics to be more equal. To allow more people especially women to be able to participate.
After all that is all we ask for equality. It will be up to women ourselves to challenge the attitudinal barriers we face. We shall of course require the support of our male comrades to ensure when we speak out we are listened to with respect.
As a friend said, this new exciting period of Scottish politics may mean an end to “shouty politics”. This may mean a time when listening is just as important and just as much as a strength.
This is an exciting time when many women have found their confidence so structures should fit around us. We should not be expected to know the unwritten rules because with the new politics comes the opportunity for a new way to work together. Women from all backgrounds are meeting together to plan too.
Women For Indy are meeting this week. They have had to move from their original 300 seater venue as over 1,000 women have applied to attend their post-referendum meeting.
I would personally on behalf of everyone in the SSP welcome the hundreds of women who have applied to join us. I promise we will ensure your voices are listened to. We look forward to all we have to learn from you. This will be a dialogue of equals where we can learn about all our backgrounds and we hope you continue to gain confidence in your political journey.
Exciting times ahead sisters and we will support you to feel able to be part of it. Thanks too to all my sisters who have been campaigning for years in their branches and as part of the Yes campaign.
Remember this is not the end, just the beginning.