Margaret Young from the National Committee talks about her experience of standing for political office. Photo shows Margaret (second from left) with some Women for Indy colleagues at a Bairns not Bombs rally in Glasgow.
It took me many years of active party membership before I agreed to stand as a council candidate. Before I came to a decision, like most people, it took a mixture of asking; -
"Can I do this?"
"Should I do this?"
"I can't do this because . . . "
That last one repeated over and over in my head, with me putting numerous barriers in place as reasons why I couldn't stand. After becoming a candidate and, later, vetting others to be candidates, I realised that most people go through that same process.
It's easy to fall back on the blanket cynicism of politics, saying that "everyone's in it for themselves" but whilst it is true that there are some with huge egos or who are nakedly ambitious and would trample on their granny to get on, most people I have come across stand for office after some persuasion and self-doubt. They do it because they want to serve their communities and are drawn to stand for council because they care about the provision of local services. They want to make a positive contribution - whatever their party or, indeed, as an independent.
So what persuaded ME after all that time of doubting myself? There were two women who were very influential.
The first was Kay Ullrich, who is now often known as the woman who signed up Nicola Sturgeon to the SNP, but Kay is so much more than that. She is one of the people who laid the key foundations to getting the independence movement where it is today and Kay was an MSP in the first Scottish Parliament when it reconvened in 1999. I still remember her honesty in saying that she could always find reasons for not standing - family, work, etc. - but that she had come to realise that there would also be pulls on her time. She wanted more women elected to our councils and parliament, so she started to think about the good reasons for standing rather than looking for reasons not to stand!
The second woman was Kim Nicoll, a local councillor in my area at district and regional level, then on the unitary authority. She is a very intelligent and caring woman and people will tell you how brave she was to take on the dominant power bases on the councils, even as a new councillor. She was outstanding at holding them to account. Kim also continued to encourage other women and she always had their back. She made women like me feel brave, through her support and solidarity. So please remember, however daunting it might be to put yourself forward to stand for the council, there will be women who have your back in Women for Independence and in your own party.
Kay and Kim brought a different outlook to all sorts of issues in their respective roles as elected representatives. They were both keen to encourage other women to do the same, reminding us all that women's experiences were important and would enrich and enhance political decision-making.
So we need women to come forward to give this perspective. It's no coincidence, for example, that footpaths are not cleared of snow very often when 75% of councillors of men who generally have cars and are not having to think about pushing a pram or getting a wheelchair through the snow. They are not usually the ones doing their elderly neighbour's shopping because their neighbour is scared to go out in case they slip. We need women's voices and women's perspectives to help show why all people's needs matter.
It can feel unnatural to be saying "look at me, hear what I have to say" but remember that your voice is important. You want to make a positive contribution to your community and to Scotland, so it is great that you are speaking out. Please take up the opportunity to be a candidate. It is a fantastic, challenging, unique experience. Remember too, there are lots of amazing women out there who will be supporting you!