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New Report Tackles Gender Diversity in Scottish Parliamentary Committees
Published: 5th March 2018, 11:37am
Image © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body A new report examines gender diversity of witnesses to Scottish Parliamentary committees and provides a series of recommendations to improve the diversity of witnesses invited to provide oral evidence.

Committees play a vital role in scrutinising the policies and legislation of the Scottish Government, often using oral evidence provided by witnesses.

The newly published report into gender diversity in Scottish Parliamentary committees is the result of a collaborative project between Hugh Bochel, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Lincoln, and the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), and examined committee data across three parliamentary sessions.

Findings revealed that despite an overall increase in the proportion of female committee witnesses, around three fifths are male, with gender proportions varying considerably across committees. Data showed that in the final year of Session 4, 2015-16, of 1,872 witnesses, 36 per cent were female and 64 per cent male, with one person requesting that they be identified as non-binary.

The project found that while many committees do use a range of activities in seeking to hear from diverse voices, these are not always recorded significantly in official records, and until recently, there has been insufficient attention paid to disseminating and learning across committees.

Hugh Bochel, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Lincoln said: “Diversity is important in helping provide the information and perspectives that committees require in order to undertake the scrutiny of government actions and legislation, and in reflecting the ways in which parliaments engage with wider society.

“This report offers suggestions to help aid the Scottish Parliament to ensure that committee witnesses are more broadly representative of Scotland’s society.”

The report recommends consistent recording of the gender, and potentially other protected characteristics, of oral witnesses, which would enable committees and the Parliament to monitor issues of diversity.  Other recommendations include recording more formally the current range of informal evidence-gathering activities that committees undertake, and increased support for first time witnesses, as well as the exploration of the potential benefits of technology like video conferencing as a tool to increase witness diversity by enhancing accessibility.

The recommendations are intended to aid key stakeholders and decision-makers in considering how changes could be made to the witness selection process to better reflect and improve not only gender diversity, but the overall diversity of the oral evidence heard by committees.

The full report can be accessed here: https://digitalpublications.parliament.scot/ResearchBriefings/Report/2018/2/27/Committee-witnesses--gender-and-representation
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