Zero Tolerance: 30 years on from landmark campaign against domestic violence, SNP and Labour politicians are uniting to launch a similar one – Susan Dalgety

Its nearly thirty years since Edinburgh pioneered the Zero Tolerance campaign against domestic violence.

Monday, 11th October 2021, 12:30 pm
The first Zero Tolerance campaign revealed violence against women knew no class boundaries, with women in Morningside villas as much at risk as those in Sighthill flats

I was a fresh-faced, somewhat naïve, young councillor when the hard-hitting campaign was launched in December 1992, and at the time probably didn’t fully appreciate how significant it would be prove to be.

But as a member of the Women’s Committee, led by the redoubtable Margaret McGregor, I knew we had to act. Domestic violence was our city’s secret shame, and the genius of the first Zero Tolerance campaign was that it exposed that abuse knew no class boundaries. Women in Morningside villas were as much at risk as those living in a Sighthill high-rise flat.

The Evening News was crucial to the campaign’s success. It even ran its own sister campaign, called Free Us From Fear, which was instrumental in reinforcing the message that Edinburgh would not tolerate violence against women. Readers responded with their own suggestions on how to end the scourge, including harsher sentencing for perpetrators, better street lighting and safer transport.

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So it is with a heavy heart that, three decades later, I learn that a new generation of women councillors have been forced to launch a similar campaign. West Lothian councillors Kirsteen Sullivan, of Labour and Moira Shemilt, SNP, have put aside their party differences to promote women’s safety.

As a first step, the council has set up a consultation to find out about women’s real-life experiences of violence, particularly in public spaces. The survey closes on 22 October, so there is still time to take part. And, if you live in West Lothian, I hope you will.

I agree with Councillor Sullivan when she says: “It is well past time for a shift in attitudes so that responsibility is shared by everyone in society, including those in positions of responsibility.”

The success of the Zero Tolerance campaign was not down to politicians or council officials, or even this newspaper alone, but in large part to the people of Edinburgh and Lothian. They took the campaign seriously and as a result, attitudes changed.

I wish Kirsteen and Moira didn’t have to repeat history, but we should all be grateful that they have united in this important cause.

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