Are cracks in the devolved governments' gender equality already starting to show?

15th March 2012
15 Mar 2012
women's representation
devolved institutions


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020 7202 8601

Are cracks in the devolved governments' gender equality already starting to show?

The Electoral Reform Society have published a new report warning that progress on gender representation in the devolved governments will slide into a reverse unless action is taken.

Key points from report on women's representation in Scotland and Wales

  • Progress on women’s representation in Holyrood and the Senedd now stagnant or in decline
  • Disturbing void opening up in the talent pool of prospective female AMs and MSPs (of the candidates in 2011only 8 out of 23 AMs were female and a paltry 171 out of 579 MSPs)
  • In Wales current representation relies heavily on incumbents from the 2003 election who benefited from positive action which is no longer in place
  • In Scotland the decline in women’s representation is in large part concurrent with this loss of the ‘rainbow parliament’ and the rise of the SNP (only 28% of the SNP’s majority group of MSPs are female).
  • Scarcity of women at local government level (only 25% in Wales and 21.6% in Scotland compared with England’s 30%) contains an important warning for the future as many AMs and MPSs gain vital experience as councillors.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said

The pipeline of future female talent for the devolved governments appears to have sprung a leak. If this trend continues it could have a devastating impact on the Welsh and Scottish Parliament's future gender parity.

There is a very real threat that inertia on this issue will cause an embarrassing fall back for the devolved governments to the dismal lows of Westminster’s own levels of gender representation.

This cannot be allowed to happen. Our new coalition campaign: Counting Women IN, has a simple goal: 50/50 men and women in all our political institutions. This is the first time organisations across the gender and democracy sectors have come together in this way and we’ll be working closely with parties across the UK to help them get their act together.


Download: Women’s Representation in Scotland and Wales

Contact For more information or to arrange an interview with Katie Ghose, CEO of the Electoral Reform Society, contact Sophie Langridge at or call 020 7202 8601.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Welsh Assembly now has two out of four party leaders female: Plaid Cymru’s new leader Elin Jones/Leanne Wood and the Lib Dems' Kirsty Williams. The Scottish parliament also has two out of four female party leaders; Labour's Johann Lamont and Tories' Ruth Davidson.
  2. Plaid Cymru does however have a female Chair, Chief Executive, President and now a female leader.
  3. The Counting Women In campaign is a new coalition set up by five leading campaigning organisations in democracy and women’s rights; the Centre for Women and Democracy, the Electoral Reform Society, the Fawcett Society, the Hansard Society and Unlock Democracy
  4. The Welsh Assembly (41.6% female) and the Scottish Parliament (35% female) rank eighth and eighteenth wordwide respectively when it comes to electing women. The UK House of Commons currently ranks 53rd, tied with Malawi.
  5. To find out more about the Electoral Reform Society Wales and Scotland visit
  6. The Electoral Reform Society is an independent campaigning organisation working to champion the rights of voters and improve UK democracy.

Vote change will 'damage democracy and devolution'

22nd November 2011
22 Nov 2011
first past the post
welsh assembly


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New figures released by the Electoral Reform Society Wales (ERS) show the extent to which Welsh Labour would disproportionately benefit if First Past The Post was exclusively adopted for future Assembly elections.

The figures are contained in a report² produced by the Society in conjunction with the Aberystwyth Institute of Welsh Politics and Prof. Roger Scully. The report details what the results in the 2011 Assembly election could have looked like under different voting systems.

The issue of electoral reform for the National Assembly is back on the agenda after the Secretary of State for Wales indicated she may change how AMs are elected.

The UK Government is likely to propose a reduction in the number of constituency AMs from 40 to 30, in line with the reduction in numbers of Welsh MPs³. To compensate, more AMs would be elected using the regional list system – 30, instead of the current 20.

Responding to this proposal, Welsh Labour has stated that it would prefer all AMs be elected by First Past The Post – two from each of the 30 constituencies with a system known as Two Member First Past The Post.

However, as ERS research reveals, Two Member First Past The Post would deny thousands of Welsh voters a voice in the National Assembly and disproportionately benefit Labour.

Steve Brooks, Wales Director of the Electoral Reform Society said:

Our research shows that Labour would have won nearly 70% of the seats in the National Assembly, had the last election been fought using Two Member First Past the Post. This is despite the fact that Labour secured around 40% of the vote.

“While this may be good news for aspiring Labour candidates, its bad news for Welsh voters. Two Member First Past The Post would rob thousands of voters of a choice and voice.

Over half of Welsh voters chose the Tories, Plaid Cymru or the Liberal Democrats in May this year, yet under Two Member First Past The Post, those parties would be left with less than a third of the seats in the Assembly. That would be damaging for democracy and damaging for devolution.”

The research from the Electoral Reform Society Wales also reveals how the different parties would fare if Wales used the Single Transferable Vote, the system used to choose MPs in Ireland.[4]

Professor Roger Scully, Director of the Institute of Welsh Politics, stated:

The Assembly voting system has already been discussed in detail by the independent Richard Commission. The Commissioners, chosen on a cross-party basis and looking at the evidence, came to the decision that 80-member STV was the most suitable voting system for a Welsh Assembly with legislative powers”.

Steve Brooks added:

Had the recommendations been implemented Labour would have secured 40 of the 80 seats. Voters would have had more of choice over who represents them locally, and who governs them nationally”.

Commenting on the row between the UK and Welsh governments on Assembly voting reform, Steve Brooks said:

A proportional system is part of the devolution package and it’s been endorsed in two referendums. How we choose our politicians is fundamental to how our democracy works. Any change to the voting system should be carefully considered, above day-to-day party politics. There needs to be a genuine cross-party dialogue with the people of Wales”.


Download the full report here: Welsh Election Report (English language version) or here: Welsh Election Report (Welsh language version)

For more information or for interview requests you can contact:

Stephen Brooks, 07525619622

Owain ap Gareth, 07771661802

ERS London Media Office 020 7202 8601

Summary of Findings

The report examines the outcomes of 30 constituencies with two Assembly Members (AMs) elected in each under First Past the Post (FPTP), the Single Transferable Vote (STV) and the Additional Member System (AMS): See graphs and tables of the projected election results.

Notes to Editors

1. The Electoral Reform Society Wales aims to build a better democracy by ensuring that the electoral processes of Westminster & Wales are fair and accountable. Find out more at
2. The report, written by elections experts, academic Prof. Roger Scully and ERS Wales’ researcher Dr Owain ap Gareth, the report compares projections of what the results could have looked like under different voting systems and questions the impact of the proposed Boundary Changes. The report strongly recommends that any proposed change to the voting system would also need to take into account whether it is necessary or desirable to link the National Assembly for Wales constituencies to Westminster constituencies.
3. The boundary changes instigated by the UK Government propose to cut the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30.

New report from the Counting Women In campaign

3rd June 2011
3 Jun 2011
women's representation


A new report from the Counting Women In campaign has found that

  • Representation of women in local government remains stagnant after May elections.
  • At current rate of change we face another 150 years before women have an equal say
  • Political parties key to getting more women into town halls.

The report; Representative Democracy? Women in the 2011 Local Government Elections in England examined a third of the local authorities that held elections in May 2011 and found:

  1. There was a net increase across over 3,500 seats of just 20 women councillors
  2. At the present rate, it will be more than 150 years before there are equal numbers of men and women elected to English local councils
  3. There were 318 wards where all the main three party candidates were male, 14 times as many as the 22 wards where all candidates were female.
In a genuinely representative democracy women would not be regarded as an added extra
Nan Slaone, Report Author

Nan Sloane, report author and Director of the Centre for Women and Democracy, said:

Only 31 per cent of councillors are women, and this isn’t improving. If the annual increase in women councillors stays as it is – just 20 across the sample of 3,500 seats we looked at – it will be many generations before women have an equal voice in local decision-making. This is shocking, and goes against all the rhetoric that we hear so often about the need for more women in public life.

Since over 90 per cent of councillors belong to one of the big three parties, their candidate recruitment processes are key. But we also think that it’s astonishing that nobody has responsibility for the diversity of democracy nationally, and we shall be taking steps to ask government, the Electoral Commission and elections officers to do this, both in terms of providing support for the identification and training of candidates through a Democracy Diversity Fund, and by monitoring who is standing for election in the first place.

In a genuinely representative democracy women would not be regarded as an added extra. They’re 51 per cent of the population, they’re more likely to be both the users and the providers - as employees - of local services, and they pay equal taxes. It’s high time they were equally represented.'


Notes to editors:

The Electoral Reform Society, the Fawcett Society, the Hansard Society and the Centre for Women and Democracy have joined together to form the Counting Women In campaign to address the lack of women in politics. We believe the under-representation of women in Westminster, the devolved assemblies, and town halls around the UK represents a democratic deficit that undermines the legitimacy of decisions made in these chambers. Together, we will be fighting to ensure women have an equal presence and voice within our democratic system.

(1) In the 100 authorities surveyed, details of which can be found on page 23 of the report

(2) If, as is reasonable to assume, this sample is taken as representative of the overall trend.

(3) More details on page 3 of the report.