Scottish Labour has announced a range of policies designed to put women “at the heart” of Scotland’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Launching the party’s “women’s manifesto”, deputy leader Jackie Ballie said investing in creating a fairer country could enable women to be an “economic powerhouse” emerging from the pandemic.
Empowering women’s under-utilised skills and talents could unlock an estimated £17bn of growth in Scotland’s economy, according to the Close the Gap organisation.
Scottish Labour’s pledges, unveiled the day before the manifesto launch, include the requirement for annual pay reviews – with details of any gender pay gaps – to be published by both public sector bodies and private companies with more than 250 employees who are awarded government contracts.
A central fund would also be established to pay for historical equal pay claims.
The party has pledged a £500 “Scottish Skills Benefit” for anyone who is unemployed or on furlough to help them retrain, with £750 additional income support for people out of work.
Further policies include targeted training to support women into leadership positions and strengthened childcare support, along with the creation of a new enterprise unit to assist the growing number of women who are starting new start-up businesses.
Baillie, who is standing to retain her Dumbarton constituency seat at in May’s election, said: “As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, Scotland is at a crossroads.
“We can either allow the pandemic to take us backwards, or we can choose to invest in women as our economic powerhouse, unlocking billions in economic growth.
“Scottish Labour is committed to putting women at the heart of our recovery.
“Our Women’s Manifesto would deliver not only a fairer recovery, but a stronger Scotland.”
Scottish Labour Leader, Anas Sarwar, added: “As we come out of this pandemic, I am focused on what unites us not what divides us.
“Our national recovery plan has women at its heart. It’s not only because the right thing to do, but it will deliver a stronger and more resilient economy.”
Launching the manifesto in Glasgow, Baillie also discussed issues of women’s health, including thousands of cancelled or delayed cancer screenings, reiterating proposals for “rapid diagnostic centres” so patients get results within two weeks.
She also paid tribute to Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour’s former health spokeswoman, who campaigned for a women’s health fund that could support research into conditions such as endometriosis.
Baillie added: “And, of course, it was Monica that made us all very proud when she brought before the parliament a Member’s Bill to allow free period products in Scotland – a world, beating Bill that will make a huge difference.
“If you elect more Scottish Labour women to the Scottish Parliament, these are the kinds of things they will do to improve the rights of women across Scotland.”