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SCOTS MEMBERS FAIL TO REPRESENT SOCIETY

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By Kerry Lorimer ...
By Kerry Lorimer

Scottish councillors are still overwhelmingly male, white, and middle aged, according to research carried out by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Executive.

Fewer than one in five councillors north of the border is a woman, and the average age is 55, compared with 53 four years ago. Just over 1% of councillors are from ethnic minority groups, double the figure in 1999, but still only half the level it should be to accurately reflect the make-up of the Scottish population.

The survey comes as the Local Governance (Scotland) Bill begins its passage through Parliament with the aim of bringing a more diverse range of councillors into Scottish town halls.

The picture on race and gender diversity is now bleaker than in England, where 29% of councillors are female.

The figures were greeted with little surprise from senior councillors, some of whom say sexism is inherent in the macho Scottish local government power structure.

'It's not just the big boys at the top, it's an attitudinal thing that is quite patronising towards women,' said one source.

'If you're a woman who speaks up and takes a hard line, there is a different reaction than if you were a man. You're seen as a bossy woman - which could be very intimidating [for some female leaders].'

COSLA president Pat Watters (Lab) dismissed claims of institutionalised sexism as nonsense: 'There is no difference at all between male and female council leaders - a council leader is a council leader no matter what their gender,' he said.

But Mr Watters agreed action was needed to make local government more reflective of the people it represents.

Profile of Scottish councillors: Main findings

28% of candidates are female and 22% of councillors are women.

--The average age of Scotland's councillors is 55.

--Just over 1% of councillors come from ethnic minority backgrounds.

--70% of councillors and candidates in employment have professional/ managerial careers .

--Average workload is 34 hours a week, down three hours on 1999.

--26% of councillors class themselves as 'full-time councillors', with 52% being employed outside the council.

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