Lucy Hunter Blackburn at the Forth Valley Feminist 2023 Woman’s Festival

MurrayBlackburnMackenzie is a policy analysis collective founded in 2018 by Dr. Kath Murray, Lucy Hunter Blackburn, and Lisa Mackenzie, which has emerged as one of the pivotal organisations in Scotland’s fight to protect women’s rights. Lucy spoke about The Scottish Parliament and Women: Reflections on the GRR Bill at the Forth Valley Feminist 2023 Women’s Festival.

One of the key lessons from this experience is that the parliament’s working culture can be inaccessible and unwelcoming to women. At the Forth Valley Feminists’ Women’s Festival, Lucy Hunter Blackburn asked the audience about their experiences with the parliament. Many attendees had watched proceedings online, spoken to Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), or even attended in person. Many for the first time. The MSPs had an opportunity to reach a new audience, but many women felt frozen out of the process.

A female MSP was seen begging to know when they could sort out childcare for their young children, and a disabled MSP also mentioned that their carer was waiting for them, but the government backbench jeered and laughed at these questions, showing a profound lack of empathy for the struggles faced by women and carers. Actions speak louder than words. Anyone who jeers at parents or those asking about their carers cannot be trusted to care about women and women’s issues.

The professional culture around Holyrood indirectly discriminates against women. Women are more likely to be engaged through voluntary campaigning than paid work, and their views are often dismissed, distorted, or misrepresented. Despite repeated attempts, women could not get the governing coalition, the Labour party, or the Liberal Democrats to understand that their safety and fairness matter, or that their ability to set boundaries and say no is important.

People who attend the parliament for the first time expect more dignity, better questions, and a serious approach to the work at hand. However, this is not always the case. One attendee of the Forth Valley Feminist’s Women’s Festival recounted being stripped of their t-shirt in a broom cupboard, which was just the first disappointment in a visit that was a far cry from her prior expectations of gravitas and professionalism.

Lucy Hunter Blackburn thanked everyone who has supported and encouraged MurrayBlackburnMackenzie and the wider movement to keep speaking out. She encouraged everyone to continue talking to each other and working together to make their voices heard in the Scottish Parliament.

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