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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament 08 January 2020

Agenda: Palliative and End-of-life Care (Research Projections), Portfolio Question Time, Short-term Lets, European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, Business Motions, Decision Time, Women, Peace and Security, Correction


Women, Peace and Security

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-19517, in the name of Emma Harper, on women, peace and security. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament acknowledges the unanimous passing of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (SCR1325) on 31 October 2000 on Women, Peace and Security; notes that it was the first resolution to specifically address the impact of war on women and women’s important contribution to peace; acknowledges that it commits all UN member states to valuing, understanding and including women in the promotion of international peace, security and conflict resolution, including through the provision of secure spaces and sanctuary for women affected by conflict, involving women in international decision making and noting the abilities of women in resolving international and national conflicts; understands that some nations have developed action plans to implement the resolution, which has three principle aims, preventing gender-based violence, promoting the role of women in international peace building and implementing women-specific gender-based policies to protect women from conflict; considers that Scotland is already making significant progress in achieving these aims, including through it having a gender-balanced cabinet, its establishment of national advisory groups on human rights and women’s and girls’ issues and the adoption of polices of peace and the promotion of women internationally; acknowledges the view that more must still be done by governments both in the UK and around the world to achieve all of SCR1325’s goals, and welcomes opportunities to discuss how best to reach these objectives.


I am pleased to bring forward an important and timely debate on United Nations Security Council resolution 1325, on women, peace and security. I thank MSP colleagues who have signed my motion, allowing us to discuss the progress that we have made towards achieving the aims of resolution 1325, to raise awareness of what it means, and to present the importance of security to our country of Scotland and our population.

I also put on record my thanks to Janet Fenton and the team from the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; I am also grateful for the leaflet “Peace Through Inclusion: Scotland”. Janet and her team have been hugely important voices for peace and must be commended for their continued work. I welcome Janet and others to the gallery today.

It is important to outline that, when we talk about security, we are not just referring to physical borders and conflict but talking about the security of our population in relation to poverty, about freedom from persecution, about the protection of women from conflict and about the promotion of human rights. We need to demilitarise the language of security and not just use it to talk about ceasefires and defence. Security is about access to a just and fair legal system, and about our responsibility as a Parliament to ensure the wellbeing of the people whom we represent and of the wider international community.

The debate provides us with an opportunity to stress the importance of peace and security, both in Scotland and around the world, particularly at a time of rising international tensions, the break-up of political unions and strained relationships.

Twenty years ago, on 31 October 2000, the UN Security Council unanimously passed resolution 1325. It is a different type of resolution and is the first of its kind, with an aim of specifically addressing the impact of war on women and the value of women in conflict resolution and international peace.

Women can promote international peace, security and inclusion. While most resolutions talk about combatants and set rules for engagement and conflict resolution, SCR 1325 specifically highlights how women and girls are affected by armed conflict and by the sexual violence that occurs during conflict situations; it also talks about how women are treated by combatants.

SCR 1325 aims to achieve the protection of women and girls, and promote the importance of women in conflict resolution. It sets out four key demands that all member states have agreed to implement. First, member states must ensure the eradication and prevention of gender-based violence. Secondly, they must ensure that measures are put in place for the relief and recovery of women affected by armed conflict. Thirdly, they must ensure that the human rights—as set out by the United Nations—of women and girls are protected during armed conflict. The fourth and final demand is that member states must enact measures to promote women and girls into positions that allow for peace building and conflict resolution.

The question now is: what progress has been made since the resolution was passed 20 years ago, and what steps have been taken, in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, to work towards the aims of the resolution?

In 2010, the UK joined 36 other UN member states in adopting a national action plan. The UK plan commits the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK’s defence forces to a range of activities to integrate women, peace and security issues into the UK’s conflict policy. The national action plan is the UK’s highest-level strategy on women’s protection and the promotion of women in conflict resolution.

The plan has been successful to a certain extent, and has led to several successful campaigns, such as the no girl left behind initiative. That initiative is helping girls from priority countries to access good-quality sanitation, education and other experiences that they would otherwise not be able to access.

The plan has also been the catalyst for a culture change within the UK Government on the importance of women serving on our international and humanitarian peacekeeping missions. It has led to an understanding that women bring a different perspective to the table that often focuses more on humanity—on healthcare, education and sanitation—and not just on ceasefire talks.

Although there is much to welcome, a review that was carried out in 2019 identified several areas that must still be improved if the UK Government is to achieve the themes of the resolution. In contrast, I want to focus on how the Scottish Government, despite its not having control over foreign policy or international policy, is working towards the values that are set out in resolution 1325.

In Scotland, we have already introduced trailblazing policies for the incorporation of women into positions of power and for women to play their part in mediation and conflict resolution. Under the First Minister, we have introduced policies to help vulnerable women and girls around the world to flee war and conflict and come to Scotland, where their rights are enshrined in law. We have introduced policies such as “Equally Safe: Scotland’s strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls”. At the heart of the equally safe strategy is the principle that all women and girls, regardless of their background, race, religion or sexual orientation, should feel safe in our communities and be without fear of violence and abuse.

Internationally, Scotland, working in partnership with the UN, has pledged practical and financial support for Syrian women and girls to learn peace-building and conflict resolution skills. In a programme that runs over three days and consists of talks, seminars and lessons, women and girls have access to international peace-keeping experts and female role models in positions of power, and they can learn from one other about the fundamentals of peace keeping. The programme has already proved to have a lasting and positive impact on individuals who have taken part in it. It aims to play a part in delivering a fair and lasting peace settlement for Syria that is shaped by women as well as by men.

Our First Minister was the first world leader to address the United Nations General Assembly on the importance of women playing our part internationally. She spoke of the importance of societies and countries having a focus on welfare, and of peace promotion.

I will name a few of the other ways in which Scotland is meeting the targets that are set out in the resolution. We have a gender-balanced Cabinet and equal gender representation on our public boards; all residents who live in Scotland will have the right to vote in Scottish elections and to stand for the Parliament; and, most important, we have a dedicated minister for equalities and a commitment to upholding women’s rights. I urge the UK Government to appoint an equalities minister as soon as possible.

The incorporation into Scots law of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is another measure that means that girls who move to Scotland, particularly from countries that are affected by conflict, will be supported and will have their rights set in statute.

Much progress has been made but, obviously, there is still more to make.

I am proud of our record in Scotland. It shows what more could be done should the Parliament have powers over foreign affairs or, better still, all the powers of a normal independent country.

Current political situations, such as the rising tensions that have been caused by President Trump’s Administration in the middle east, or Brexit and the repositioning of the UK on the international stage, are causing much uncertainty and concern. Those political situations leave Scotland in a difficult diplomatic situation, and the UK must cultivate good relationships in order to broker trade agreements. More than ever, it is important to build peace, ensure security and, in particular, ensure that we look out for women and girls.

I look forward to hearing the contributions of other members, and to progress and actions on the resolution until November 2020 and beyond.


I thank my colleague Emma Harper for bringing this important and timely debate to the chamber.

The words “women, peace and security” suggest a very positive and comforting image, yet we have just witnessed a very frightening start to the decade. The ordering of the assassination of Iran’s Qasem Soleimani by the President of the United States has made the world an infinitely more dangerous place, in which peace and security are ever more threatened. That is why the UN Security Council’s resolution on women, peace and security, which was passed two decades ago, is more relevant than ever. It specifically addresses the impact of war on women and, as Emma Harper’s motion says, highlights the important contribution that women have made to the peace movement over the decades.

“The United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security” was adopted when President Barack Obama signed an executive order in December 2011, some 11 years after the Security Council adopted resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Its goal is simple and profound. It is

“to empower half the world’s population as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened and affected by war, violence, and insecurity.”

Surely, that is the world that we strive for, not one in which there is warmongering and macho territorial power play.

Women must become equal partners in order to avoid more deadly conflicts, in which innocent civilians—far too many of whom are women and children—become victims. Women’s voices must be heard, and children must be protected from military violence. We know that countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunities. When those rights and opportunities are denied, countries and their citizens suffer.

The UK’s national action plan on women, peace and security sets out a five-year strategy, from 2018 to 2022, with the aim of achieving gender equality while building more stable and non-confrontational societies for all.

Of course there is more to do, but Scotland is achieving much already, with a gender-balanced Cabinet in Government, a minister for equalities, increased representation of women in public life, the equally safe strategy—which Emma Harper mentioned—and many other initiatives that are unfortunately not measured, because we do not sit on the Security Council. Notwithstanding that anomaly, I am confident that Scotland will continue to lead the way in gender equality and will recognise women as the peacemakers in our country and in global society.

It has long been recognised that women are the peacemakers. No fewer than 50 women peace campaigners and pacifists in the UK are listed on Wikipedia, many of whom are Scots. With some exceptions, we do not want war and confrontation. I and the party that I represent want to rid Scotland and the world of nuclear weapons.

However, it is not just about military action; it is about humanity, as Emma Harper said. Women want a world in which our children can grow up safely and happily—understanding one another’s differences and respecting them. For me, never has the phrase “bairns, not bombs” had more meaning than it has in 2020.


I am glad to join members in welcoming the debate, and I thank Emma Harper for lodging her motion.

Across every country, whether it has suffered conflict or not, women and girls deserve not just protection but a concerted effort to promote their skills and their contribution towards peacekeeping. The UN resolution 1325 embodies that sentiment entirely.

Unanimously adopted in 2000, the resolution marked the first time that the unique impact of war and conflict on women and girls was taken into serious consideration. Not only that, it addressed the need for greater fervour in actively encouraging the role of women in peacekeeping and conflict resolution.

We need to realise that women’s experience of conflict is distinct in and of itself, and the UNSCR 1325 recognises that. It is a sobering fact that women and girls are more at risk of gender-based violence in situations of conflict, and such violence remains one of the most notable human rights violations worldwide. Gender-based violence is often linked with poverty and is founded in the power inequalities that are evident between men and women. However, evidence has shown that, with improved equality, a state is much more likely to enjoy peace.

For that to happen, states need to endorse the resolution’s pillar of protection. There must be protection not just amid war but in the face of its consequences, such as poverty and refugee crises. Through its pillar of participation, the UN resolution embodies the view that women are key agents in the peace process, particularly in making peace as long-lasting and sustainable as possible. Indeed, research has shown that women’s involvement at key levels of decision making can bring immense benefits. For instance, an International Peace Institute study in 2011 found that, when women are included in the peace process, there is a 35 per cent increase in the probability that the peace agreement will be kept for 15 years or more.

In general, for more peaceful ends to conflict, inclusivity that is born from a grassroots level is vital. The affirmation that the UN resolution provides encourages the equal participation and involvement of men and women of any ethnicity, at a local or a national level.

It is vital that Scotland is at the forefront of promoting women, peace and security. In 2006, the UK adopted its national action plan in support of that movement, and many other UN member states have since done the same. In early 2019, nine member states committed to developing their first-ever national action plans in advance of October 2020.

Of course, although there has been some improvement in recent years, there is still much more work to be done. For instance, only 43 per cent of UN member states have adopted the national action plans, not all which are as far-reaching as they could be. Most fail to reference disarmament policy, and many do not include an allocated budget for implementing their plan.

Scotland has long charted its path towards active encouragement and protection of women in the face of conflict. For instance, Scotland’s women in conflict fellowship allows women to build on fundamental communication and negotiation skills that are designed to resolve conflict, which has been effective in training female peace mediators from Syria. Such steps contribute to a significant breaking down of barriers.

I hope that today brings a renewed motivation for our Parliament to advocate for women’s protection worldwide and to promote their much-needed role in peace-keeping efforts.


I am pleased to be called to speak, and I congratulate my colleague Emma Harper on securing this debate on women, peace and security.

As we have heard, the debate focuses on UN Security Council resolution 1325, which was passed unanimously nearly 20 years ago, on 31 October 2000. In passing that historic resolution, the UN reaffirmed the important role that women play in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peace building.

The UN also recognised that the protection of women and girls and their participation in peace processes is important to the goal of international peace and security itself.

As far as the operational elements of resolution 1325 are concerned, the UN member states are called upon, inter alia, to prevent sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflict; to protect women and girls in refugee settings, which is very apposite in today’s world; to support women’s local peace initiatives—I am pleased to welcome Janet Fenton and her CND colleagues to the gallery; and to increase women’s political participation at all levels of decision making in national, regional and international institutions.

It is interesting to note that, in the background to this historic UN resolution, there was a considerable degree of non-governmental organisation and civil society involvement in its drafting, and that the two-day debate on the resolution by the UN Security Council was the first time that it had dedicated a discussion to women. Perhaps, if such debates had been more frequent, the world would be a different place today.

In 2009, a further resolution fleshed out how matters were to be taken forward with the so-called four pillars of implementation: prevention, protection, participation and relief and recovery. UN member states are required to implement those tenets through national action plans. It should be noted that progress on that has been patchy in that, as of September of last year, only 77 countries had adopted such national action plans. Moreover, there has been little evidence of impact in conflict-affected counties, albeit that it is recognised that more data is needed to track results more comprehensively.

However, at the same time, we can see positive outcomes in the way in which the debate is now framed, with increased attention on the issue of women and conflict within the United Nations and its member states.

It is pleasing to note that, in Scotland, significant progress has been made within the broad parameters of the goals that are sought by the UN resolution. We have seen the securing of a gender-balanced Cabinet, the establishment of the national advisory council on women and girls, the funding of work to tackle violence against women and girls and new legislation on female genital mutilation and forced marriages, as well as proposed legislation to provide a clear statutory basis for health boards to deliver forensic medical examinations—which is a key issue.

I was very pleased to have been at the opening of the new forensic suite at the Queen Margaret hospital in Dunfermline, which also serves my constituency of Cowdenbeath. That suite was established as a result of work by dedicated local volunteers and the medical staff, so very well done to them.

Much has been achieved, but, within the overarching objective and international goal of women, peace and security, much more needs to be done. It is apt to close by quoting the late, great Ivor Cutler, whose famous song “Women of the World” was recently recorded by the fabulous Karine Polwart in her “Scottish Songbook” album. He wrote:

“Women of the world take over
because if you don’t, the world will come to an end
—and we haven’t got long.”


I am happy to participate in this challenging debate and I thank Emma Harper for securing the time for it. I am pleased to add my few comments in an important opportunity to underline specific experiences of women in war and the role of women in securing peace.

In a world in which women experience male violence daily—in their homes, workplaces and communities; we have seen so many more examples of that in the past few weeks—there is no doubt that there is as great a need as ever to emphasise the sex-based causes of violence and trauma in all too many women’s lives. Those are the experiences of women across the world, regardless of the constitutional arrangements in which they live, and the issue is about understanding the causes.

The debate highlights the way in which women in war do not just experience the horror that war brings but are victims of rape and sexual violence and abuse, when rape becomes a strategic weapon of war, not just as an individual atrocity but as a purposely planned means to subjugate whole communities.

In the brief time that I have, I will highlight the experience of women in Bosnia in the conflict and genocide in the 1990s. I should mention my entry in the register of members’ interests that I am proud to be a board member of Remembering Srebrenica Scotland, which is a charity alongside other groups across the United Kingdom that are dedicated to ensuring a greater understanding of that conflict and the steps that led to genocide and to supporting those in Bosnia who seek to educate us all on how we might ensure that such genocide is prevented in future anywhere in the world.

In Bosnia, thousands of men and boys were massacred and left in mass graves. The fact that men and boys were victims allowed the Serbs to deny genocide by claiming that the men and boys—some as young as 11—were of fighting age. However, those massacres were not the only atrocities. The sex-based violence that was visited on the people of Bosnia was its most obvious in the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war. Thousands of women were subjected to sexual violence during the war, and for a long time their stories went untold through shame, stigma and the challenge to survivors to rebuild their lives sufficiently to speak out.

In recent years, that has changed. Women have broken the silence; led by an inspirational woman, Bakira Hasecic, the Association of Women Victims of War has sought to find a way to unify women survivors to ensure that what happened to them—their experiences and lives—were known to the rest of us. If genocide seeks to destroy people, it also destroys family life. Sexual violence and rape in public is used to humiliate, degrade and destroy—it is cynical, planned and brutal in its purpose.

We need to understand the threat to women as well as the power of women such as Bakira in speaking out; we need to find ways to support women who have suffered in war in that way. We also need to understand male violence—unleashed in its most horrific form as an act of war—in order to change the attitudes that create the possibility of its happening at all. In supporting women, in challenging the conditioning of men and in understanding the reality of male violence, we can play a part in building peace in our communities and across the world. That is an aspiration that this resolution represents and it is something that we can do now here and with the support of others right across the world.


I thank Emma Harper for bringing the debate to the chamber. The issue of women, peace and security is close to many women’s hearts. I am sure that we are agreed that all in society should ensure that, in the arena of conflict and violence, women should not only have a voice but be encouraged to be active participants in seeking resolution, mediation and compromise.

There are very few societies in the world that we can call truly peaceful, and sometimes our view that Scotland is a peaceful society and that violence and conflict only happen overseas can blind us to a lack of peace on our own soil. Can there be true peace for the girl who witnesses domestic violence or drug or alcohol abuse at home, for the girl who has learned to hate herself so much that she cuts herself and pulls out her hair or for the young woman who experiences sexual harassment?

I believe that it is important that Scotland takes its place on the world stage and advocates for an end to armed conflict and for an end to rape as a weapon of war. It is important that Scotland takes responsibility for the contribution that it has made to violence and death around the globe by supporting the arms industry with public money. At the same time, we need to ask whether we are really doing our best to create a society in which women and girls are not silently bearing the burden of violence and inequality in their physical and mental health.

I am sure that everyone in the chamber recognises that violence is not always achieved with knives or guns: violence can be soft and quiet. It can be being spat at in the street for wearing the hijab, it can be the wholly disproportionate impact of austerity on women and children, or it can be the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women. I could go on, and the list of ways in which women experience violence can appear to be an insurmountable thing to tackle, both at home and abroad, but there is impactful work to be done. Violence against women is a cause and consequence of gender inequality: 49 countries do not have laws that protect women from domestic violence; we continue to fight against the gender pay gap here; and in 18 countries women need their husband’s permission simply to go to work.

It may seem small in comparison with global conflict, but work such as equipping women from an early age with skills such as peer mediation, so that they can negotiate tricky problems that they might face at school, at further education or in the world of work, is important. It is also important to make sure that young women have adequate access to mental health support and that they see being healthy as more than just being thin. Supporting initiatives such as the Parliament Project, which encourages women of any age or political persuasion to run for office and get their voice heard across the UK, is important.

We have to work hard to give a voice to some of the most marginalised women, such as those who seek asylum in Scotland from conflicts, to make sure that they feel not only that they can take part equally in the civil society of their new adopted country but that they are valued in it. Would it not be a fine thing to one day see elected in the chamber a woman of colour; indeed, that is long overdue. We need to see women in the chamber who have sought and been given refuge here—women who contribute to Scotland and help to raise all our perceptions about Scotland’s place and responsibilities in the world, and Scotland’s responsibility in helping women achieve peace, whether it is personal, communal, national or international.

There are valuable lessons that we can learn from women around the world. Rwanda has a cohort of formidable and inspiring women who, after the genocide there, became politicians and activists and worked hard to achieve peace in the aftermath of atrocity. They have learned hard lessons; they now have an equal number of girls to boys in education and increased participation of women in the country’s democratic processes and conflict handling. Those lessons from other countries can be ones from which we learn. They can inspire us and show us new ways of doing and being.

I thank the Greenham Common women, who protested against NATO’s decision to site American cruise missiles at the Berkshire site. Margaret Thatcher, believe it or not, called them “an eccentricity”. They are truly essential, and they are wholly admirable. I thank Angie Zelter and the Trident three, who were jointly awarded the Right Livelihood award. I thank Trident ploughshares and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and I thank Janet Fenton, who is the vice-chair of Scottish CND, for her relentless pursuit of peace. I thank the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which addresses the root causes of violence through a feminist lens.


I, too, congratulate Emma Harper on securing this important debate—it is timely.

The year has started with a worrying escalation in tensions between the US and Iran, as others have highlighted, and there is an urgent need to de-escalate the situation. Civilians in the area have already suffered through years of turbulence, violence and upheaval. By adding fresh fuel to those fires, the prospect of calm again seems distant. The human cost of that should never be sidelined in favour of politics.

Conflict dynamics are complex: various factors, such as economic inequality, political oppression, ethnic tensions, climate change and many more, combine to lead to conflict.

Women and girls are raped and kidnapped and are forced to flee bombing raids with their children, deal with the impact of financial sanctions on the home, bury husbands, brothers and sons and they never see any justice. Too often, women bear the brunt of conflict while having little influence or control over the circumstances that led to the conflict in the first place, or its resolution.

In highlighting the need to ensure that women are fully involved in peace-building processes, it is important to avoid falling into the trap of essentialising. For centuries, women have been stereotyped as naturally peaceful and caring, but at the same time irrational, disqualifying them from the pressures of high office. Men, correspondingly, have been typecast as aggressive—or decisive natural leaders. We know how damaging those assumptions can be to men and women.

The point is not that, had the President of the United States and Iranian military leaders been female, escalation would never have happened. Rather, ensuring that a range of views and perspectives are expressed in decision-making processes means that those making decisions are at least representative of the people that those decisions ultimately affect. Sometimes, that might even lead to a different outcome.

That means practising a foreign policy agenda with gender equality at its heart. It means transforming the position of women through economic inclusion, education and training, and working to extend rights and responsibilities. It is stating the obvious to say that plans or interventions made without the input and experiences of 50 per cent of the population are unlikely to generate change. As Alison Johnstone highlighted, the effect that women had at Greenham Common in the 1980s is a prime example. Women I know stood up for what they believed in—peace—and managed to effect real change.

It is nearly 20 years since I became president of the local rotary club, an organisation that is often considered “pale, male and stale”, but through it I became aware of the Rotary International programme of peace fellowships, which brought people from across the globe together to use their skills for peace and for conflict prevention and resolution.

I was delighted to become the first woman to represent the Shetland constituency. I know that others in the Parliament feel similarly for their seats, too.

If there is any silver lining to be taken from the recent general election result it is that a record number of female MPs are now in Westminster. The number now stands at 220 compared to 208 in 2017, but that headway feels fragile. Imbalance remains, and in 2020 there can be no reason for such disparity. Making decisions is not just a man’s job. As we enter a new decade, surely it is time for a change.

I support the motion and its objectives.


I congratulate Emma Harper on providing us with the opportunity to debate this important subject.

The debate is anchored on resolution 1325, which does not, of course, stand alone in Security Council resolutions. There have been significant numbers on this subject since then, culminating in resolution 2493, which was passed last year. Twenty years have passed and the United Nations Security Council continues to make resolutions on this subject. That illustrates something important: fine words in the Security Council and fine words in this Parliament are of limited value. They set examples and frameworks, but they do not solve the problem.

We know that there are women out there who are leaders in the fight for peace and who are examples to us. Mother Theresa is a great example as a humanitarian; Mary Robinson is a great example as a champion in tackling climate change, particularly its effects on women; and of course 17-year-old Greta Thunberg is leading the way in persuading people of all genders across the world of the importance of creating a safe and secure world in which we can all live.

We know, if we look at our prisons, that the overwhelming majority of people who are in prison are men, not women. We know that, in practice, men are relatively likely to be predisposed to violent and extra-social—against social norms—behaviours that lead to their being convicted and put in prison. We should not pretend that there are not women out there who espouse violence—Boudicca, the Amazonian women perhaps, and Golda Meir as well. Women can get engaged in violence, but they are very much the exception, not the rule.

The 2011 Nobel peace prize was won by three women. That was a first, although I hope that it will not by any means be the last time that women win that prize.

Women’s achievements are manifold across many parts of our society. I am not a great fan of honours, but I look at them for what they are, and I note that 60 per cent of the awards that were given to Scottish people on the recently published new year’s honours list were given to women, which tells us about the enormous contribution of women to our society.

There are a couple of important things that we might focus on. In the debate, we have primarily talked about the role of women in making peace after violence and war. However, women play an equally or perhaps even more important role in preventing war in the first place. That is why it is important that, around the world, an increasing number of women are becoming prime ministers and presidents and are undertaking leadership roles in places in which they might be more likely to prevent violence. Prevention is much better than cure, particularly in this area of activity.

We must think also about what is going on in the minds of people who espouse violence—I am thinking in particular of men, who, as I exemplified earlier, are perhaps more likely to be disposed towards violence. There are three things that we can look at in that regard: first, men can be trained to respond to particular situations in this domain as in others; secondly, men can acquire skills and knowledge that help us to reason a way through problems in a way that we have not previously considered or thought about; and, thirdly, actions can be taken in relation to the autonomic response—the important automatic response that happens unthinkingly—in order to programme men of future generations to respond in a way that is more appropriate to the needs of the world with regard to peace.

Finally, let us not imagine that women perpetually have to be victims. Women are the answer, not the problem.


This has been a fantastic and fascinating debate. Like others, I congratulate Emma Harper on bringing it to the chamber. The motion raises key issues about the importance of equality, highlighting the role of women in promoting international peace and security.

I welcome to the gallery Janet Fenton, who I have followed for many years. When I was a teenager in the 1970s and 1980s, I watched what she and the other women at Greenham Common were doing. She was a real inspiration. I also welcome Gari Donn, who is the executive director of UN House Scotland—our very own UN House, located in Edinburgh.

I share the concerns of Beatrice Wishart and Rona Mackay about the events of the start of this year—the macho conflict approach that some people have been taking, and the disproportionate impact on women of such events. Almost 20 years on from the unanimous adoption of Security Council resolution 1325, there is still work to do to increase the understanding of the specific and disproportionate impact of war and conflict on women and girls. We have heard about that from many members today, including Stewart Stevenson, Johann Lamont and Alison Johnstone. Stewart Stevenson noted that there continue to be more resolutions, which reminds us that there is more work to do.

In October, in New York, at the UN Security Council open debate on women, peace and security, UN under-secretary-general and executive director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka—I think that I pronounced that properly—said:

“The loud and common message is: progress is too slow, political will is not strong enough, and pushback against the needs and interests of women is threatening the progress we have made and pushing further away those who need the resolve and support most.”

I could not agree with her more. That is one of the reasons why it is important that the Scottish Parliament affirms its commitment to do what it can, within its powers, to raise awareness of the issues that the resolution addresses.

Beatrice Wishart reminded us in her speech of the damage that is done by assumptions and stereotypes, and mentioned her work in the Rotary Club and that organisation’s peace fellowships. I will talk a bit about the Scottish Government’s peace fellowships, too, so she will see that there is some common ground there.

Emma Harper asked what steps we are taking in Scotland. We have taken a number of practical steps to increase protection for women and girls and to promote gender equality. Since 2007 we have strengthened the law on violence against women and girls, introducing the Forced Marriage etc (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011 and the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016.

With our partners at the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, we published “Equally Safe: Scotland’s strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls” in 2018. Emma Harper referred to such policies as “trailblazing”, and she is correct, but we know that there is still work to do. Rona Mackay told us that our progress is not measured because we do not currently have a seat on the UN Security Council—something that we wish to remedy in the near future.

We have invested in services for women and children who have experienced or are experiencing violence, including those to support the Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland networks—that is an incredible part of the work that we do here.

We have demonstrated our commitment to women’s representation in senior positions by appointing a gender-balanced Cabinet, as we have heard—it is one of only a few across the world—and by establishing the partnership for change 50/50 by 2020 pledge. That commitment was given global recognition last year, when the First Minister was appointed by UN Women as an inaugural global advocate for the UN’s HeForShe campaign.

Alison Johnstone reminded us about the work of this place and the Parliament Project. That has been a wonderful experience. I was here at the most recent event, when the chamber was filled with women. I would quite like to see that in 2020. That is not to say that our glorious men in the chamber should be pushed out, but we would like to have more women here. Thinking of intersectionality, it is also about having refugee women here and having black and ethnic minority women represented in this place, taking into account the work that was done post conflict in Rwanda and considering how that was used to build for peace. I will use what Beatrice Wishart said as a quote, and I might do so again:

“Making decisions is not just a man’s job.”

She is absolutely right.

More recently, we have established a national advisory council on women and girls, which provides the First Minister with strategic advice about where the Scottish Government needs to take greater action to end gender inequality; we published “A fairer Scotland for women: gender pay gap action plan” in March 2019, taking an intersectional approach to tackling women’s inequality in the labour market; we invested significantly in a transformational expansion of childcare provision; and we committed to deliver a women’s health plan in 2020.

Within the past two years, the Parliament passed the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 to improve women’s representation on the boards of listed public authorities. We gave those bodies a couple of years to do that, but they have done it two years ahead of schedule, and there is now 50:50 representation across all those organisations.

Annabelle Ewing added a few things to the list, with the update to FGM legislation—the Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance) (Scotland) Bill—now going through Parliament and the very important measures on forensic medical examination. She paid tribute to the dedicated work of local volunteers—she was absolutely right to do so—and I support her on that.

The other recent piece of legislation in this area is the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018. It covered a specific offence of domestic abuse, which covers not just physical abuse but other forms of psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour.

Johann Lamont reminded us of the conflict in Bosnia and the use of rape as a weapon of war. I pay tribute to her and to Bakira for her work and her bravery in telling a story that is hard to hear, but which we must hear in order to learn the lessons.

Members might ask what we are doing internationally. We are promoting equality and enhancing the prospects for peace. Scotland is dedicated to being a good global citizen, working with organisations, initiatives and projects in countries around the globe to ensure that everyone benefits from a safer world. One such example is the women in conflict fellowship, inspired by Security Council resolution 1325, which was put in place to train women from areas of conflict around the world so that they can play an integral role in peace processes. Alison Johnstone and Stewart Stevenson reminded us that prevention is an important aspect of that work—and it surely is. That Scottish Government initiative started back in 2015. Since then, there have been some great successes. Each year, along with our partners, Beyond Borders Scotland, we have welcomed at least 50 women from countries affected by conflict to take part in our fellowship programme. Together, we ensure that they have the skills and confidence to maximise their contribution to building a safer world. In 2017 we doubled down on that commitment by announcing a total of £1.2 million for the fellowship over its four-year lifespan.

Alison Johnstone asked whether there can be real peace, here in Scotland and internationally. I would hope that some of the work that is being done answers that question. I believe that the fellowship enhances and develops Scotland’s role as a peace-making hub and as a platform for providing a safe space for parties to come together and engage in fruitful discussion. Scotland’s uniquely peaceful history of political settlement and devolution allows constitutional and political experts to be involved and to share their knowledge.

As I have explained, the benefits of our fellowship are already being seen. Three women who were trained through it are now actively engaged in the Yemeni peace process, as members of the UN special envoy’s women’s advisory board.

Furthermore, the Scottish Government is funding two additional workshops for women in conflict 1325 fellowship alumni, which will take place in January and February this year. They will provide specialised support to fellows in building on their skills.

The incorporation of the UNCRC in the work of the human rights task force will also build on that work, as Emma Harper’s contribution highlighted.

As the First Minister said when she was first approached on Scotland undertaking such work:

“We’re proud that the UN asked Scotland to lead on a women’s peace-making initiative for Syria. Every year we will fund training and capacity building for at least fifty women from affected countries, ensuring they have the skills and confidence to maximise their contribution to building a safer world.”

Maurice Corry’s speech gave us wonderful words about what we need to do, how we need to do it and how to realise the benefits of such an approach. That is fantastic, but such words take no account of the present hostile environment. Given yesterday’s House of Commons vote to deny families’, refugees’ and European Union nationals’ rights to reunification, we cannot simply say that that speech was wonderful; we need to take account of the current situation, for which we are responsible, and to take action on it now.

We will continue to take action to promote the role of women and girls internationally. We will also continue to encourage the UK Government to use its powers to make progress on this important agenda. At home, gender equality will remain at the heart of the Scottish Government’s vision for a fairer Scotland.

In her contribution, Annabelle Ewing quoted the lyrics of Ivor Cutler, who said:

“Women of the world take over”.

I agree with that—and we are working on it.

Meeting closed at 17:51.