Scottish Labour has insisted its manifesto is “for all women” and promised to introduce misogyny as a hate crime in the next parliament.
Launching their “women’s manifesto” on Wednesday, leader Anas Sarwar and deputy leader Jackie Baillie promised to “close the gap” and unlock a £17 billion “powerhouse” using women’s “under-utilised skills”.
Scottish Labour’s pledges include the requirement for annual pay reviews – with details of any gender pay gaps – to be published by both public sector bodies and private companies with more than 250 employees given government contracts.
A central fund would also be set up to fund historical equal pay claims.
Ms Baillie said the introduction of equal pay act would “end the scandal of low pay, it will value women’s work equally to men, it will actually lift families out of poverty, and it’s good for the local economy, too”.
When asked how gender reform plans guided the party’s manifesto pledges this year, Mr Sarwar said the proposals were “for all women”.
He said: “I am acutely aware of the everyday prejudice trans people face.
“Trans rights are human rights and we have to address the issues raised by trans men and women across the country.
“Alongside that we have seen the biggest hate crime remains against women.
“That’s why we have got to right the wrong in the hate crime bill to include misogyny in it. That needs to happen urgently over the course of the next parliament.
“I’ve said this before and I will again, in the context of all forms of prejudice. No individual community can confront the prejudice they face if they are left to do it on their own.
“I make the same case when it comes to Islamophobia and racism – we won’t defeat either if we leave it to our Muslim and minority communities alone. And we won’t defeat transphobia if we leave it to the trans community alone and we won’t defeat sexism if we leave it to women alone.
“I want the Labour party and Scotland to be welcoming to everybody.”
Ms Baillie added: “I am proud Scottish Labour is the party of equality.
“The equality act frames our approach to all of these matters.
“Our manifesto will include… reform of the gender recognition act, de-medicalising the process, updating the gender reassignment protocol.
“Trans rights are about human rights and we will hold true to that.”
When asked why Labour had supported the Scottish Government’s hate crime bill without misogyny being included, Mr Sarwar added he and Labour did not wish to stop the protection the bill would offer minorities in Scotland.
He added: “It was a bill, in the end, which brought together the Jewish community, the Muslim community and other minorities as well, we wanted them to have the protections but we recognise there is still a huge gap.
“We want to make sure we have misogyny included, either as a stand alone bill or an amendment.”
The party has also pledged a £500 “Scottish skills benefit” for anyone who is unemployed or on furlough to help them retrain, with £750 additional income support for people out of work.
Further policies include targeted training to support women into leadership positions and strengthened childcare support, along with the creation of a new enterprise unit to assist the growing number of women who are launching new start-up businesses.
Ms Baillie, added: “As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, Scotland is at a crossroads.
“We can either allow the pandemic to take us backwards or we can choose to invest in women as our economic powerhouse, unlocking billions in economic growth.
“Scottish Labour is committed to putting women at the heart of our recovery.
“Our women’s manifesto would deliver not only a fairer recovery, but a stronger Scotland.”
Launching the manifesto in Glasgow, Ms Baillie also discussed issues of women’s health, including thousands of cancelled or delayed cancer screenings, reiterating proposals for “rapid diagnostic centres” so patients get results within two weeks.
She also paid tribute to Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour’s former health spokeswoman, who campaigned for a women’s health fund that could support research into conditions such as endometriosis and her Member’s Bill to provide free period products across Scotland, describing it as a “world-beating Bill that will make a huge difference”.