On Tuesday 6th February, MSPs held a debate to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage in the UK.
In 1918, the Representation of the People Act was passed, granting the right to vote to women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification. In the same year, the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act was passed, allowing women to become MPs for the first time.
The debate was led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who also used the centenary to announce £50,000 of funding to support projects around Scotland aimed at celebrating and commemorating the centenary of women’s suffrage and improving women’s representation in politics.
SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, Ruth Maguire used her speech to underline how it is important to bear in mind that, though a huge step forward for women’s equality, 1918 only saw some privileged women gain the right to vote – with universal suffrage not to be achieved for another 10 years.
Speaking in the debate, she said:
“This centenary is less a celebration of an end goal than of an important staging post on the path towards equal voting rights for women.
“And it can seem today that we are at another such staging post. One where much progress has been made but where much remains to be done. All women now have the vote and we have a woman First Minister and Prime Minister. Despite this, women remain under-represented in politics and public life.
“It’s not enough for women in positions of power today just to say, “Well, I’m here, so that’ll do” and neither is it enough to say that women just need to have more confidence and be encouraged a little more. We must break down the structural barriers in their way. Deeds not words.”