Rennie: Lib Dems will reflect values of equality and opportunity


The leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie MSP has said that with the passing of a motion to promote diversity amongst parliamentary candidates and elected representatives, the Liberal Democrats will now reflect the society they seek to represent.

The leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie MSP has said that with the passing of a motion to promote diversity amongst parliamentary candidates and elected representatives, the Liberal Democrats will now reflect the society they seek to represent.

This morning at the party’s spring conference members passed a motion agreeing to:

  • A drive to select and secure the election of more women and candidates from other underrepresented groups to the Scottish, UK and European Parliaments 
  • Specifically open top candidate positions to women with all women shortlists
  • The creation of a Diversity Campaign Fund

Mr Rennie said: “Passing these proposals sends a powerful message that we are changing. This represents a big shift and will open up opportunities for new women candidates. 

“And it is working already with new women now considering standing for parliament for the first time.

“We have bold, positive and ambitious plans for the next five years and we will now be joined by people from a much more diverse range of backgrounds as we take them forwards.

“As the leader of this progressive party I am delighted that we have embraced change that means we can be more like the people we are seeking to represent.”

ends

Notes:

The full motion passed at conference reads - 

Conference agrees:

A - As required by the Federal Constitution, the Campaign and Candidates Committee will amend the rules for the conduct of elections to reflect the changes in this motion. The actions set out in this motion apply to the next round of elections only.

B. The top candidate on our list in Scotland for the European Parliament Elections scheduled for June 2019 will be a woman and the second placed candidate will be a man. The remaining places on the list will be filled without reference to the gender of the candidates. When the votes of the members are counted to determine the order in which the candidates are to be placed (in the process set out in Clause H7(b)(iii) of the Constitution), EITHER the last remaining woman will be placed first on the list and her votes redistributed among the remaining men (if more than one) to determine subsequent places; OR the last remaining man will be placed second on the list and his votes redistributed among the remaining women (if more than one) to determine the first and any other subsequent places. The same arrangements will be applied to select the man for second place. 

C. Candidates for the General Election of 2020 in the five most winnable seats by percentage majority to be overcome to win the seat that do not have an incumbent Liberal Democrat MP at the time of selection should each be selected from a shortlist comprising only women members. All the remaining 53 seats not currently held will be open contests. 

D. Our candidates for the Scottish Parliament Election of 2021 for five of the ten most winnable seats (whether constituencies or top regional places) will be women. A motion will be presented to the October 2016 Conference specifying which constituencies or regional lists would be affected by this change, taking into account the results of the May 2016 election. 

E. The Scottish Party Leader will have a responsibility to oversee the drive to select and secure the election to parliament of more women and candidates from other underrepresented groups. The Leader will report twice a year to Conference on progress made. 

F. The Scottish Party Leader will appoint a group of party spokespeople from our councillors and candidates to speak for the party as well as parliamentarians. At least Spring Conference 2016 Edinburgh 14 half of that group will be women and it will include members who are from ethnic minorities and other underrepresented backgrounds. 

G. All members of the Scottish Executive will have a responsibility to support the drive to secure the election to parliament of more women and candidates from other underrepresented groups. They will also encourage and support more women and candidates from underrepresented groups to be elected to councils and internal committees in the Party. The Executive will agree a plan to advance this objective and the effectiveness of the plan will be the subject of a debate at the Committee once a year. 

H. The job descriptions of party staff will be amended to include specific responsibilities for promoting diversity of candidate selection. This will include monitoring, communications and campaigning. 

I. In parallel with their obligation to provide an annual PPERA return to Party Headquarters, all local parties will be required to report annually on: the number of local party officeholders who are women and from other underrepresented groups, the percentage of approved candidates locally who are women and from other underrepresented groups and the percentage of new members who attend local party meetings and join the local party committee. This information will be reported by party staff to the Executive and by the Executive to Conference on an annual basis. 

J. A new model job description and specification for candidates will be agreed by the Executive Committee based on the model in England with input from the Campaigns and Candidates Committee, Scottish Liberal Democrat Women and other interested party organisations. This will build on the Memorandum of Understanding agreed by the Scottish Executive in 2013. 

K. There will be a new Diversity Campaign Fund for use in supporting candidates in winnable seats from underrepresented groups for personal or campaign expenses. This fund will be used to reduce the practical barriers that stop people from underrepresented groups from standing for election, for example transport for people with mobility issues and BSL interpreters, as well as campaign expenditure. It will be worth at least £10,000 per year in 2016 and index linked thereafter. The Fund will be managed by the Campaigns and Candidates Committee as delegated by the Executive Committee. 

L. A team of campaign mentors will be established by the Campaigns Department and Campaigns and Candidates Committee to support candidates in winnable seats from underrepresented groups. 

M. Between autumn 2016 and late 2017 there will be a programme of information and training events to provide support and information for aspiring candidates. Local parties, parliamentarians, councillors and members of party committees will be asked to encourage those members who have not previously sought approval to attend these events. The numbers of members who attend these events and the local parties from which they arise will be reported to the Executive and annually to conference. The team and training will be managed by the Campaign and Candidates Convener with the support of party campaign staff in Scotland. 

N. Communications to members will include positive promotion to women and from other under-represented groups. The work of candidates and spokespersons who are not yet elected parliamentarians will be promoted widely to members. 

O. In interpreting this motion any approved candidate who does not identify as male or as female shall be able to access the same arrangements as are proposed for women. 


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