“Remember, remember the 5th of November.”
Well, 5th November 2015 is certainly a date that I will remember well. And that’s not because I went to an unusually spectacular firework display, but because it was the day I attended my first full council meeting.
One key point that I learned from the day was:
- Always make sure you have at least one coffee before the meeting begins.
It was indeed a long and tiring day, but one that was interesting and full of robust debate. People argued over the use of certain words, (I think it was the word gerrymandering that Labour took particular offence to, despite it being entirely warranted), others debated the way that the council executive was composed, we approved our annual accounts, considered a broad range of local issues, and also debated plenty of worthy motions put before council by members across the chamber.
I was delighted to have seconded a motion moved by Cllr Brian Goodall (SNP), which called for the council to oppose the renewal of Trident. As I finished presenting the case as to why I believe that Trident is as much of a local issue as it is a national issue, and presented the figures of what Trident actually costs and means to Scotland, I was told by one of my three Conservative colleagues that I would “learn once I was older”.
Learn once I was older.
At the age of 24, having successfully obtained a History degree, having worked in various different jobs including in the banking industry and the health sector, I would have thought that by 24 I was perfectly capable of researching and understanding important topics nationally and locally, analysing, assessing and considering information that was put in front of me, and, quite simply, understanding the arguments for and against renewing nuclear weapons.
But, a clear, quick judgement was made: I was young, how could I understand the intricacies of serious topics such as defence?
While we continue to make progress in tackling inequality, unfortunately within our society there are those who will continue to discriminate, be it on gender, age, or race. It is not good enough; we must continue to challenge those who believe discrimination is acceptable.
As I looked across the chamber of Fife Council, I was struck by how much we still need to do to bring about a wider democracy that better reflects our society. A more diverse group of councillors would be a clear sign that we are making progress in public life.
While I was recently shocked by the news that Fife had only just appointed its first female to its top management tier; an Executive Director post (yes, it took until 2015 for this particular glass ceiling to be breached), I was proud to be sitting on the side of the chamber that has a gender balanced team for the Executive Committee.
Until our public life (at every level) better reflects our nation, we all need to do more, not only to encourage more women to enter public life, but to also encourage younger members of society, and to ensure that we have a more diverse range of views and experiences in our decision making bodies.
It may be lost on the Tories, but every member of the house is equal, regardless of age, gender, creed or colour. I am proud to be the member of a party that pays more than lip service to issues of equality.
We cannot change the past, but we can learn from its mistakes. Along with my colleagues, I will continue to seek a greater balance of representation at every level of public life.