The original suffragettes and suffragists campaigned for the vote because they wanted change.
To them, voting was about more than just the privilege of going to the polling booth; it was about seeing a tangible difference in the lives of women.
They wanted equality and fairness, not just on the face of it but in how wives, mothers and female workers were treated by the law.
The suffragettes and suffragists felt not just that they were equally qualified and capable, but that they had something else to add that was valuable.
They had experiences and opinions that were missing from Parliament and the democratic process, and which could inform better laws, which could in turn make society function much better.
This is the centenary of votes for women but, as Neil Findlay pointed out, initially women were able to vote only if they were over 30 and owned property or had a degree.
Therefore, only 40 per cent of women became entitled to vote 100 years ago today: the rest needed to wait 10 years to get the vote.
Ruth Davidson said that we are celebrating
“a staging post to a better system”,
but how many more staging posts will we have to celebrate before we are truly equal?
A number of members talked about what the suffragettes and suffragists suffered.
The most stark account was probably from Joan McAlpine, who described their being force fed, jailed, cast out and assaulted. It is grim, but people were treated that way just because they tried to get the right to vote.
Kezia Dugdale pointed out that women are still suffering today due to inequality, poverty and violence.
When I read the papers, I sometimes wonder whether we are going backward rather than forward.
We lack equality in Parliament and on boards and, with a 14.1 per cent gender pay gap, we lack equality in pay.
There is also gendered pay, in which jobs that are done predominantly by women are paid much less, even though they need the same levels of skills and qualifications as much better-paid jobs that are done predominantly by men.
We need to value the work that women do.
Christina McKelvie talked about the need for men in our cause: we need male feminists who support equality.
Richard Leonard spoke about Keir Hardie’s commitment to votes for women.
Hardie was told that that was the wrong thing to pursue, but he recognised that to build a fair society it was essential to give votes and equality to women.
I am proud of my party’s decision to take positive action to encourage women into politics, but we cannot take any of our achievements for granted because, as we all know, we can slip back quickly.
However, I encourage other parties to join us, and to stand up and make a firm commitment to women’s equal representation in public life—not only to ask her to stand, but to make it possible for her to stand.
The Scottish Labour Party has the highest proportion of women here, at 46 per cent.
In the first parliamentary session in 1999, the Scottish Labour Party had 50:50 representation, and we were absolutely derided for it.
How times change.
I wonder whether, had it not been for those women, we would have made the progress that we have made in Scotland on equal pay, domestic violence and the like.
If those women had not been fighting the cause, would those changes be happening now?
A number of members talked about women in history who have fought for the vote.
Many members quoted people from their own areas, but just as many talked about women who are making a difference now; those who are still fighting the fight—trade unionists and women in other countries who face death in order to express their vote.
When I am on the doorstep, I often say that people, especially women, must use their vote, because people are still dying today in order that people can do so.
There is something very humbling in recognising that I would not, were it not for the struggle of those women 100 years ago, be standing here addressing Parliament today.
I wonder what those women would say if they could see us.
Would they be proud of their achievement, or would they be disappointed that we are still fighting for equality?
Let us together create a truly equal society of which they would be proud.
Let us not wait another 100 years; let us do it today.
I warmly thank the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee and its clerks for a comprehensive and insightful report.
As members know, I was a member of that committee until early this year.
I thank its convener for his very kind words: I enjoyed working with him and the rest of the committee.
The key issue is how we improve air quality in Scotland.
We know from Friends of the Earth Scotland that air pollution from particulate matter alone—that is, PM2.5—is responsible for 2,000 early deaths in Scotland each year.
If we include exposure to nitrogen dioxide, the number is 2,500 early deaths each year.
That is more than all the people who die in road accidents.
If we consider the wider issue, we see that deaths from air pollution are in the top two of avoidable deaths worldwide.
Air pollution truly is an invisible killer.
It causes 670,000 people to be at high risk due to their cardiovascular conditions.
More than 65 years after air pollution first hit the headlines in the UK, that is a statistic of which no one can be proud.
Like many other members, I have been a champion of low-emission zones, and I have used many a debate in the chamber to promote them as one of the many solutions that are needed to tackle air pollution and climate change.
I was therefore delighted to see the Scottish Government finally put in motion the steps to bring the first low-emission zone to Scotland.
As we know, the Scottish Government’s 2017-18 programme for government undertook to create an LEZ in one city—which is likely to be Glasgow—by the end of 2018 and to have LEZs in Scotland’s four biggest cities by 2020.
Will that be delivered according to plan?
In its written evidence, SEPA stressed the importance of not letting timescales slip because of operational reasons including procurement, financing, staffing and legal considerations.
Donald Cameron mentioned the evidence from McGill’s Bus Services.
The committee’s report said that McGill’s Bus Services is :
“concerned it would be ‘bankrupt’ as a result of a ‘last minute LEZ scheme’ when planning and communication ‘should have taken place 5 years ago’. It also highlighted the additional costs of running retrofitted vehicles which would result in ‘fares going up to meet these additional costs.’”
Donald Cameron also touched on the fact that enforcement of LEZs is vital.
I have always been a big enthusiast for what has been done in London.
Use of automatic number-plate recognition is absolutely key.
The minister may mention in winding up whether that will be fully adopted for Glasgow.
Will there be a lead-in time to allow bus fleets to be upgraded? The report says that the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK said:
“Otherwise ... buses might not be available in those areas and therefore ‘you could have the perverse situation in which you introduce an LEZ and it encourages car use.’”
Although low-emission zones will not alone solve air pollution, they have the capacity to be one piece of the puzzle that could make a real difference to the health of people who live in our cities and towns.
Active travel is also crucial.
Using low-emission zones to reduce traffic pollution in towns and cities is just one step on the path to cleaner air.
The aim is that LEZs will also help to encourage modal shift to more active travel, as well as to increase use of public transport.
However, that will not happen overnight.
We need better investment in cycle paths, pedestrian walkways and clear signage, and traveller safety is needed, as is winning the hearts and minds of the public for increased active and public transport.
It is all well and good to talk about active travel, but what if it is not safe to walk or cycle in our local neighbourhoods, for example?
The Scottish Government’s target is for 10 per cent of everyday journeys to be undertaken by bike by 2020.
At current progress, that looks to be a hard target, but it is an important one.
Labour wants to bring into being municipal bus services through bus regulation, which would also encourage a step change away from private car use.
Proper regulation of buses would allow services to be run in the public interest rather than by private shareholders, which would allow them to be cheaper and more effective, as well as allowing for more investment to make them greener.
Of course, a great many health conditions are linked to living and working in air-polluted areas—heart conditions, lung problems, asthma, cancer and even dementia.
Those conditions are felt all too often by the most vulnerable people in society, including older people, small children, people who already have chronic health problems and people who live in our most deprived areas.
We need a step change and a modal shift to active travel in order to meet best practice in Europe.
In Amsterdam, for example, 70 per cent of all journeys are made by bike.
It seems that we can have no debate in the chamber without mention of Brexit—the ghost at every feast.
Many of the laws that currently put pressure on the UK and Scottish Governments regarding air quality come from EU law.
For example, the recent breach of the European ambient air quality directive led to legal action against the UK Government by ClientEarth.
It is therefore vital that, before we leave the EU, we pass legislation that maintains commitments to better air quality.
That is why I support the British Heart Foundation’s calls for new clean air acts from the devolved Administrations.
Will European Court of Justice rulings apply to UK environmental breaches in the future?
The jury is out, but the UK Government has made it clear that it is leaving Euratom because of ECJ jurisdiction.
Is not there a case for a Scottish environmental court to replace the ECJ if we have to leave?
Who will guard the guards?
Although everyone in the country should be fully committed to improving air quality for the health of the nation, that added pressure of enforcement from the EU has added the incentive for setting ambitious targets and strategies, which we are not meeting currently. Any loss of pressure could have devastating consequences.
Air pollution is a public health emergency.
It is also a continuing health inequality, which hits hardest the old, the young, the poor and the disadvantaged.
The report is excellent and I congratulate the ECCLR Committee.
I hope that the Scottish Government accepts the recommendations in full.
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