Lib Dems could move to ensure half of parliamentary candidates are women


The Liberal Democrats could take steps to ensure half of its future parliamentary candidates are women following a selection upset in Scotland which saw men take the majority of the top spots.

Leader Tim Farron is watching developments in Scotland closely after local parties voted men to top seven out of eight regional lists, Scottish leader Willie Rennie said.

One sitting regional MSP Alison McInnes was relegated to second place in favour of former constituency MSP Mike Rumbles, who had his 4,000 vote majority overturned by the SNP in 2011.

Mr Rennie said the selection upset was "the straw the broke the camel's back" in his efforts for gender equality.

"Seven out of eight regional list members are topped by men, with Mike Rumbles replacing Alison," he said in a briefing to journalists at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Dunfermline.

"I had done quite a lot of work in the last three or four years identifying good women, trying to get them to go forward, but through a mixture of things they either didn't go forward in the end or weren't voted to the top.

"That was the straw that broke the camel's back and we decided we were going to change it.

"Alison McInnes lost (her place at the top of the list) by two votes to Mike Rumbles.

"It wasn't just that, but the whole thing of having seven out of eight at the top of the list was the tipping point."

He added: "The rest of the UK has not done it.

"It's just me that has done it, but Tim Farron has said he is watching it closely and he's inclined to do something similar if it works."

Mr Rennie was applauded at conference when he told delegates that the "status quo is no longer an option".

"You heard the claps today, there is a kind of exasperation that nothing else has really worked so we're going to embrace this now," he said.

"They don't instinctively like it that much because they think it will be replacing one system that isn't particularly fair with another, but there is an acknowledgment that nothing else has worked."

Scotland has a form of proportional representation where part of the chamber is elected through first-past-the-post like Westminster, with a second regional ballot where the party with the most votes gets more MSPs elected from a pre-determined list.

Scottish Labour has a similar issue with gender equality, and recently re-opened its regional lists following its demolition in the general election to allow fresh talent to come through.

Mr Rennie said he considered re-opening the list for 2016 following the recent upset, but found it too difficult to implement in such a short space of time.

He said: "With having a plan for an election in three or four years time we think we have got a better chance of getting the party to embrace it than if we suddenly throw out the people there and then say half of them half to be women would be too difficult to get agreed."