Feminist institutionalism and women’s political leadership in devolution era Scotland

Morrison, J. and Gibbs, E. (2021) Feminist institutionalism and women’s political leadership in devolution era Scotland. British Politics, (doi: 10.1057/s41293-021-00197-1) (Early Online Publication)

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Scotland is a leading example of the international institutional turn in feminism since the late twentieth century. Feminist activists played a leading role in shaping a new Scottish Parliament in the 1980s and 1990s, which has influenced the politics of devolution since 1999. This article appraises this experience using a combination of feminist texts drawn from across the time period as well as autobiographies and biographies of prominent Scottish female politicians. The findings demonstrate that Scottish feminine political leadership has been strongly moulded by a rejection of Westminster’s archaic and conflictual politics, which are understood to be masculine. Feminists’ experiences of organising in the Women’s Liberation Movement pointed to the importance of institution building and pragmatically working towards shared goals across traditional divisions. Scottish feminists’ emphasis on consensus decision making and achieving objectives across party lines, especially on subjects gender-coded as women’s issues, has moulded a centre-left framing for Scottish women’s leadership that rejects both conservatism and left-wing radicalism. The achievement of aspirations surrounding increased women’s representation and leadership has perhaps come at the cost of the larger earlier ambitions for a more inclusive parliament accountable to the Women’s Liberation Movement and working-class communities. These findings suggest that there are inherent limitations to institution building feminism based on elite networks.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Scotland, gender, devolution, feminism, representation, leadership.
Status:Early Online Publication
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gibbs, Dr Ewan and Morrison, Dr Jenny
Authors: Morrison, J., and Gibbs, E.
Subjects:J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Economic and Social History
Journal Name:British Politics
Publisher:Palgrave Macmillan
ISSN (Online):1746-9198
Published Online:21 November 2021

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