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Who is Lisa Keogh? Profile of former Abertay student in ‘women have vaginas’ row who is standing as Alba candidate

Lisa Keogh
Lisa Keogh

Lisa Keogh, a former Abertay law student who was investigated for saying “women have vaginas”, is to stand in this year’s council elections.

After joining Alex Salmond’s Alba Party just before Christmas 2021, she is now hoping to be elected to the Angus Council ward of Arbroath West, Letham and Froickheim.

The 29-year-old is no stranger to media attention in the past year – but just what do we know about her ahead of the local council elections on May 5?

Where is Lisa Keogh from?

Ms Keogh grew up in Mid-Craigie in Dundee and lived mainly with her grandparents.

She attended St Vincent’s and Whitfield primary schools and Grove Academy before moving away to Carluke, and then onto Edinburgh where she left school with no qualifications.

Lisa Keogh
Lisa Keogh

After leaving school she trained in the capital to become a mechanic and once had dreams of opening her own garage – but those hopes were dashed by a bad knee injury.

She then went on to have two children who are now aged 8 and 10, and studied law at Abertay University, specialising in criminal and family law.

Ms Keogh says one of her key legal interests is making sure innocent people are not convicted for crimes they didn’t commit.

Why was she in the news?

Ms Keogh was the subject of much media attention in 2021 after being investigated by Abertay for her conduct.

Fellow students accused her of making offensive and discriminatory remarks during class, including “women have vaginas” and “the difference in physical strength of men versus women is a fact”.

Lisa Keogh
Lisa Keogh

The university says Ms Keogh’s disciplinary action was not because she expressed “unacceptable opinions” about gender identity, but rather it was about her behaviour in class.

A two-month long investigation was carried out during her final year of studies, which led to the student disciplinary board dismissing all complaints against her.

Ms Keogh described the disciplinary action as a “modern day witch hunt”.

She says she was targeted by the university because of her gender-critical views and says the university must protect all its students, not just a “select few”.

What happened next?

Ms Keogh is now suing the university.

She is seeking compensation from Abertay for the stress caused during her crucial final year of studies, and is being represented by the SNP’s Joanna Cherry QC MP.

The legal proceedings are still at an early stage but her legal team will argue the university breached the Equality Act 2010 by pursuing her for “expressing gender critical beliefs” and claim her rights to freedom of expression were infringed.

Previously Ms Cherry said: “Lisa should never have been put through this ordeal in the first place and the university should review its free speech and equality policies to make sure that future students are not subject to the stress of spurious complaints nor discriminated against, harassed or victimised for their beliefs.”

Joanna Cherry MP QC
Joanna Cherry MP QC

Her case has also been taken up by the Free Speech Union and she has set up a fundraising page for £25,000 to help cover the costs of this legal bid – so far she has raised £14,718.

What is she doing now?

Ms Keogh graduated last year and says it is unlikely she will attend her graduation ceremony, which was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since graduating she has not been able to find paid work but has been active in women’s rights campaigning and has been getting heavily involved in the work of the Alba Party.

Why did Lisa Keogh join the Alba Party?

The Alba Party was set up just before the 2021 Scottish Parliament election by former first minister Alex Salmond.

The party aimed to create an “indy supermajority” at Holyrood but failed to win a single seat – shortly after the election, Mr Salmond said the party was instead going to focus on the 2022 council elections.

Ms Keogh first met Mr Salmond when he presented her with a young achievers award for mechanic of the year at Holyrood in 2010 when she was just 18 years old.

Alex Salmond holding an 'Alba for independence' sign
Alex Salmond, leader of the Alba Party

She previously told us she “absolutely adores” Mr Salmond and has followed him ever since the award presentation 12 years ago.

Ms Keogh was drawn to the Alba Party because of its policies on poverty, independence and women’s rights, saying she grew up in poverty herself.

When it comes to women’s rights, Alba says it wants to “protect and preserve” sex-based rights set out in the Equality Act 2010, such as having female-only spaces like changing rooms, hospital wards and prisons.

The party also says women should have the right to refuse men from entering these single-sex spaces or from delivering intimate services such as “washing, dressing and counselling”.

Previously Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, blamed Alba supporters for a “torrent” of homophobic and transphobic abuse.

Ms Keogh’s partner Blake Sharp is also standing as an Alba Party candidate in the Monifieth and Sidlaw ward.

Where is she standing?

Ms Keogh is standing in her local Angus Council ward of Arbroath West, Letham and Froickheim.

This ward has four seats, and these are currently held by independent leader of the council David Fairweather, independent Richard Moore, the SNP’s Alex King, and David Lumgair from the Conservatives.

If she is elected, Ms Keogh says she would like to sit on the council’s education committee and get involved in trying to end child poverty.

She said: “If I do get elected I would genuinely fight for local issues and not back down for my constituents.

“Also I am still young but have the life experience so I am not naïve to the world, I have a lot to give.”

Abertay principal defends university’s stance in ‘women have vaginas’ row