Brian Monteith: There’s nothing wrong with men running Holyrood’s Corporate Body

Kezia Dugdale has called for Holyrood's all-male Corporate Body to resign. Picture: John Devlin
Kezia Dugdale has called for Holyrood's all-male Corporate Body to resign. Picture: John Devlin
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I do often despair at some of the ideas that come out of our Holyrood parliament. The latest daft suggestion is that the members of the governing body of the Scottish Parliament should all resign because they are male.

You have probably not heard of the “Scottish Parliament Corporate Body” before – and there is little reason you should have. It is a committee made up of elected members of the parliament who, under custom and practice, are proposed by each party so they are all represented, which is why it currently has five members. It is chaired by the presiding officer who is elected by all MSPs in a secret ballot.

In other words, it is up to each party to choose who they appoint to this committee, which is then endorsed by all MSPs.

Members of the Corporate Body are generally politicians who have been around the block and can bring their experience to the job but, more importantly, have to put the parliament before their party and therefore hold back classified information that parties would seek to exploit or take advantage of. It is not a job for a rising star, more an ‘old seer’.

This committee manages the administration of the parliament, the security, the working conditions, the constant repairs, the accommodation, the shops and restaurants. It is not an especially glamorous role but it is demanding, requiring constant meetings, reports and sub-committees. It is not the stuff that people go into politics for, but it is very necessary all the same.

It is therefore important that people as wise and competent as possible are appointed to the committee, but by definition they will come from a small pool of usually time-served members – unless it is a new or small party that has few people to draw upon.

I was in parliament for eight years and in that time it was well served by women such as Margo Macdonald and Nora Radcliffe. There is no glass ceiling preventing women from being on the committee. Indeed, when Tricia Marwick was elected as presiding officer, she chaired the Corporate Body.

Now it just so happens that currently the committee is composed entirely of men. But, here’s the thing, at the time of their appointment the three largest parties were led by women, and those women all had the responsibility of appointing them. So Nicola Sturgeon, Ruth Davidson and, yes, Kezia Dugdale – she who is now saying they should resign – all appointed men to the Corporate Body.

If they had wanted to appoint a woman to the post it was entirely possible for them to do so – but they didn’t.

Jumping on the bandwagon that is fast becoming a witch hunt over MSP’s inappropriate behaviour to each other, their staff and journalists, Ms Dugdale argues the Corporate Body cannot draw up new rules for good behaviour if both genders are not reflected 50-50, so the men must resign to be replaced.

This is simply false. There were no women legislators to pass laws that gave women the vote – but it happened. Suggesting that men are incapable of drawing up protocols that are fair and reasonable to both genders because they have a different chromosome is absurd and prejudiced against men, although I’m sure Ms Dugdale does not consider herself a bigot.

She also ignores that sexual predators can come from both genders (oh yes) and can prey on those of the same sex (oh yes). I saw instances of both in Holyrood.

Does that mean that we must have a balance between homosexuals and heterosexuals? Then there’s the workplace bullying that might take place because of religion or race. Do we need to have a religious and racial balance on the Corporate Body too?

I know I am stretching Ms Dugdale’s argument, but that is where her contorted logic leads. For the sake of the Labour Party, her resignation as leader has been a blessing.