Women and ethnic minorities are underrepresented at the local level in Scotland and many face harassment, an equalities study has revealed.
A report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has revealed that only 29% of all councillors are women, compared to 51% of Scotland’s population.
Released on International Women’s Day, the report also found that 48% of women had experienced unwanted behaviour that they had found to be humiliating, offensive or intimidating.
The evidence also showed underrepresentation among communities with other protected characteristics, such as race and age.
‘While we have seen some progress in diversity among elected politicians, with representation among women, disabled people, ethnic minorities and young people, diversity is still poor compared to the general population,’ said Lesley Sawers, the EHRC Scotland commissioner.
‘It’s really worrying that almost half of all women surveyed say they have experienced harassment and a smaller number of ethnic minority candidates have experienced racial harassment.’
The study found that data about levels of representation in membership, approved lists of candidates, candidates for selection, and candidates for election is not routinely collected by political parties.
This makes it impossible to know whether other protected characteristic groups, such as disability, are underrepresented, the EHRC report said.
‘The diversity of elected local politicians is clearly important, with key decisions undertaken at local government level,’ said Dr Sawers.
‘Local politicians also form a crucial part of the pool of potential candidates for selection at other levels of government, including Holyrood and Westminster.
‘Without improving diversity among elected officials at the local level, it may be more difficult to make progress across elected politics.’