TOMORROW the council will debate, for a second time, a motion calling on us to support radical action to ensure fairer representation for women in political life in Scotland.

The motion has been sent to the council by ‘Women 50:50’, a cross-party campaign established in 2014, with one purpose: to tackle structural inequality and deliver fair representation for women in Scotland.

They are campaigning for legislated candidate quotas, which would mean that all political parties had to put forward at least 50 per cent women candidates in local and national elections.

At our last full council meeting councillors decided to defer a decision on the motion until we received a briefing from the chair of Women 50:50.

Currently only 29 per cent of councillors and 35 per cent of MSPs are women, despite women making up just over half of the population. Women 50:50 believe that voluntary measures used by some parties, such as all women shortlists and twinning of constituencies, will not achieve the goal of fair representation of men and women. They believe this can only be achieved through legislation.

In Inverclyde our MP and both our constituency MSPs are male. A total of 19 of our 22 councillors are also males. Clearly this does not reflect the make up our population.

Over the years I have served on the council with a number of formidable female Councillors. Women such as Helen Pyper, Margaret Morrison and Cathie Allan were a match for any man.

There is no doubt in my mind that the councils they served on were the better for their presence and the life experiences and skills they brought to the role.

I am pleased we have three new female councillors on the current council. While I would have preferred they were all Labour councillors, I believe they have brought a fresh perspective and new ideas to the council, which can only be a good thing.

The challenge of course is how we ensure that in future councils and Scottish Parliaments we have more female political representatives here in Inverclyde. Legislated candidate quotas may be one way of bringing that about.

The fact that in 2018 – 100 years after some women were able to vote for the first time - the statistics would tend to suggest there are still both cultural and practical barriers that inhibit women from standing for political office

Some of these barriers will apply to men but they are likely to be more acute for women. For example women tend to undertake the majority of caring responsibilities and it can be difficult to combine such responsibilities with the demands of public office.

Many professional women are put off standing for the council due to the relatively modest levels of remuneration. It is difficult, if not impossible, to combine being a Councillor with pursuing a successful career.

Political parties find it easier to persuade female members to seek selection for the Scottish and UK parliaments where the levels of remuneration are significantly better and these roles are considered to be full-time.

So while legislated candidate quotas may help increase the number of female councillors I don’t believe on its own this will be sufficient to achieve 50:50 representation.

A fundamental review of the numbers and roles and responsibilities of councillors, as well as a review of the levels of support and remuneration available to them is required in my opinion.