Edinburgh’s Tory councillors tell Greens to ‘grow up’ over sexism row
Male city councillors have been accused of “ingrained sexism” and “yacking” over their female colleagues during committee meetings.
At last week’s housing and economy committee, Green Cllr Susan Rae issued a point of order during a debate over empty homes, calling on Conservative councillors to “cease and desist that behaviour”.
Green councillors have now been told to “grow up” over the row by Conservatives – but Cllr Rae insists male councillors need to stop talking over female colleagues.
She said: “It tends to be the same men and the same people every time. I think they just don’t value what their female counterparts are saying or they have no interest in what they are saying.
“It’s very frustrating and disrespectful and this committee is particularly important with what the city is facing at the moment in terms of housing and homelessness. When we are having such serious discussions, the four men to my right are just having a really good laugh and yacking.
“At full council, the Tory benches behave like they are in Westminster, they are raucous and noisy – primarily when female councillors are on their feet ... I think we can do better than that.”
The calls for more respect have been backed by SNP housing and economy convener Cllr Kate Campbell.
She said: “Some councillors are just talkers and will speak over anyone. But on balance I do notice it much more when women are speaking. It does feel like ingrained sexism even if it is subconscious to the perpetrators. I’m glad Susan raised it at committee, I was on the verge of doing so myself.
“We need to encourage more women to stand in politics and be leaders in their communities. This kind of disrespectful behaviour discourages that.”
She added: “It’s great that the Greens, Lib Dems and Labour all have gender-balanced groups. We’re a bit behind with around 40 per cent of our councillors being women. But I would stress that the women in the SNP group are always shown respect.
“Only the Tories are lagging way behind with under 20 per cent of their group being women. Perhaps if they had more women in their group they would be more practised at listening to them.”
But Conservative economy spokesperson, Cllr John McLellan said: “Cllr Rae’s ridiculous allegation was without foundation whatsoever and the woman convenor didn’t feel the need to respond with any action.
“It’s not school and in meetings lasting four or five hours, councillors of all parties and sexes routinely have conversations round committee tables when another is speaking.
“Her colleague Cllr Booth tried the same stunt at the planning committee but that was directed at a woman.
“The Greens need to grow up and understand the world isn’t hanging on every sanctimonious, politically-correct thing they say.”
Conservative housing spokesman Cllr Cameron Rose said the claims were untrue.