Scottish Labour has announced a range of policies designed to put women “at the heart” of Scotland’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Launching the party’s “women’s manifesto”, deputy leader Jackie Ballie said investing in creating a fairer country could enable women to be an “economic powerhouse” emerging from the pandemic.
Empowering women’s under-utilised skills and talents could unlock an estimated £17 billion of growth in Scotland’s economy, according to the Close the Gap organisation.
Scottish Labour’s pledges, unveiled the day before the manifesto launch, 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 who are awarded government contracts.
A central fund would then be established to pay for historical equal pay claims.
Ms Baillie said an 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”.
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, who is standing to retain her Dumbarton constituency seat in May’s election, said: “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”.
Ms Baillie added: “If you elect more Scottish Labour women to the Scottish Parliament, these are the kinds of things they will do to improve the rights of women across Scotland.”
Speaking to the media after the launch, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “The reason why we deliberately and proactively took the choice of publishing a women’s manifesto is a recognition of the deep inequalities faced by women, not just during this pandemic but actually pre-pandemic, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“We know that, pre-Covid, there were huge structural inequalities faced by women that were structural inequalities around access to the labour market, structural inequalities around the workplace more generally, structural inequalities around community and safety, structural inequalities around education, structural inequalities around pay and around almost every sector of our society.”