Contenders for SNP women’s and equalities officer nominated amid push for inclusion

Nathanael Williams

Women’s and equalities position up for grabs as SNP contenders kick off campaigns 

THE Three nominees for the SNP’s women and equalities officer role have been announced this week with disability campaigner Jamie Szymkowiak and frontbench MPs Angela Crawley and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh being chosen to run.

Angela Crawley, the SNP's Westminster spokesperson for women and equalities, will run against Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh who is the party's spokesperson for trade and investment and currently holds the position within the party, and Jamie Szymkowiak, founder of the One in Five project.

Each candidate has pitched their reasons for running for the party post within the context of the growing focus on equal rights for women, minorities and the disabled in Scotland.

The race also comes within the context of an all male commotion for the SNP’s depute leadership post.

We’ve been taking a look at the nominees.

Angela Crawley

Elected the MP for Lanark and Hamilton East since the 2015 General Election, Crawley has been the national convenor of the SNP’s youth wing, Young Scots for Independence, and also sits on the party’s national executive committee.

She is the SNP spokesperson for young people and community resources as well as the SNPs spokesperson at Westminster for women and equalities, sitting on the House of Commons committee for women and equalities. 

Crawley attended Glagow Pride at the weekend, and with other SNP parliamentarians and elected representatives such as Alyn Smith MEP, candidate for depute party leadership, Mhairi Black MP, Martin Docherty MP and Clare Haughey MSP, showed her supported for the Time for Inclusive Education (Tie) campaign for LGBTI+ education in schools, covered by CommonSpace.

Although the SNP leadership has praised the Tie campaign, it have been criticised for a lack of action in implementing the measures called for by the organisation.

As one of a prominent set of LGBT MPs in the SNP block at Westminister, Crawley has been outspoken in her support for equality across a range of issues such as women's employment, pay and sexual equality.  

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh has worked on issues surrounding employment in business among women in communities in Scotland as well as inequalities in wages. 

Ahmed-Sheikh is the founder, trustee and former chair of the Scottish Asian Women's Association (SAWA) which was launched in 2012 to great acclaim by the Scottish Government.

Yesterday she visited a halal butchers in Shawlands, Glasgow and met Shaheena, a female halal butcher from the business Shawlands Continental in the area.

Speaking to CommonSpace in response to her nomination, she said: "Over the past 12 months I’ve worked hard to make the case for equality at all levels of the SNP.

"I’ve led the way with a team of fantastic women's and equalities officers in changing the rules and processes within the party to remove the barriers many women faced when choosing to stand for election, and have worked with others to develop a package of training, to provide practical support for those who want to get more involved in the SNP either at a local or national level. 

"I’m seeking re-election as I want to build on and broaden this success, and to ensure that the SNP is the most diverse, representative political party in the country, and not just in parliament, but at all levels of Scottish politics.

"That’s why one of my current initiatives has been to arrange an equalities conference day, on the day after SNP annual conference, to encourage and support women, our LGBTI+ members, disabled members and those belonging to black and minority communities, to play a full role in their party.

"This day will mark our inaugural SNP BAME conference as well as supporting our Out for Indy and our Disabled Members conferences. If re-elected, I’ll follow this up by establishing regular meetings with representatives of all these groups in order to share ideas and best practice, and to ensure that their views are heard loudly and clearly by NEC and the party leadership."

Jamie Szymkowiak

Szymkowiak founded of the national cross-party campaign, One in Five, which was set up 18 months ago to encourage and increase political participation among disabled people in Scotland. 

The campaign was part of Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) commitments to the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and helped establish a £200,000 local government election access fund for disabled people.

The Access to Elected Office Fund, which opened for applications ahead of the 2017 local government elections was earlier this summer and was hailed by activists, was set up as an access fund for disabled people seeking election in the Scottish local elections next year.

The fund, covered by CommonSpace, will mainly help disabled people with the additional transport and communication costs incurred on their election campaigns. 

Szymkowiak has also had a role in establishing the SNP’s disabled members group and organised its first disabled members conference earlier this year in Glasgow with 170 disabled SNP members attending and the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, as its keynote speaker.

Commenting on his nomination to CommonSpace, Szymkowiak said: "I’m honoured to have been nominated to stand for election as the SNP’s National women’s and equalities convener.

I was nervous about announcing my nomination, given the importance of improving women’s representation- but the rights and representation of disabled people is equally as important. 

"Despite our recent electoral successes, Inclusion Scotland is not aware of any SNP parliamentarians who openly self-define as disabled.

"If elected, I want to put policy development at the top of the agenda. Political participation goes beyond elections and I think the best ideas will come from the sections of society they impact the most. That's why I would like to see Out For Indy, our Women's Academy, SNP Youth, as well as our BAME and Disabled Members groups bringing forward motions to every conference.

 "I know I’m the underdog in this election but even if my nomination puts the representation of disabled people on the agenda, I’ll be a happy nominee! Who knows, it may even lead to the creation of a ‘National Disability Officer’ position at the top table of our party’s structure."

Despite all Holyrood parties signing the "One in Five pledge" over a year ago in cooperation with Inclusion Scotland, it does not appear to have translated into support for disabled candidates to stand in winnable seats. 

Picture courtesy of Jamie Szymkowiak, Angela Crawley, Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh and Jonathan Riddell

Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is. Pledge your support today.