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The previous elections in 1999 in Scotland and Wales saw women form a record 37 per cent of the new Scottish Parliament and 43 per cent of the Welsh Assembly. While there was no change to the parties’ standings in this election, the percentage of women in both legislatures increased, due partly once again to special measures adopted by Labour to promote women. In Scotland, 39.5% of MSPs elected were women, while the Welsh Assembly now leads the world in women's representation as it has elected equal numbers of men and women. In both Scotland and Wales women are now over half of Labour’s parliamentary party, a feat never before attained by a governing party in the UK. At dissolution half of Scottish Labour’s MSPs were women but the party’s only retiring MSP, Henry McLeish, was replaced by Caroline May in Fife Central, and only two of its women MSPs were defeated, Elaine Thomson in Aberdeen North and Rhoda Grant in Highlands and Islands. Detailed information on women members of the Scottish Parliament >>>>

The numbers of Scottish Liberal Democrat women stayed constant, while the Tories increased their female representation from 3 to 4. Lyndsay McIntosh, who had left the Conservatives to stand for the new Scottish People’s Alliance, lost in Central Scotland to Tory newcomer Margaret Mitchell. As with Labour, the SNP lost more male incumbents than women so they have risen slightly to form 46 per cent of the Nationalists.

The minor parties were the main gainers of the Scottish election. The Scottish Socialists increased their representation from one to four MSPs, including two women (Rosie Kane and Carolyn Leckie), and the Greens expanded to five, adding Shiona Baird and Eleanor Scott to their ranks. The major upset of the evening was retired GP Jean Turner’s ousting of a Labour incumbent, while former SNP veteran-turned-independent Margo MacDonald placed third in the Lothians list and kept her place in parliament. Dr Turner was one of several candidates who campaigned against local hospital closures.
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In Wales, Labour edged ahead of its previous standing to win half of all Assembly seats and elected five new women. Irene James, Catherine Thomas and Denise Idris-Jones took Islwyn, Llanelli and Conwy from Plaid Cymru, while Sandra Mewies and Tamsin Dunwoody-Kneafsey, (daughter of MP Gwyneth Dunwoody and granddaughter of the late Baroness Phillips) retained Delyn and Preseli Pembrokeshire for the party. The party’s decision to use positive discrimination, as permitted by the 2001 Sex Discrimination (Election of Candidates) Act, has made possible a truly historic election result. Detailed information on women members of the Welsh Assembly >>>>

The only party to lose seats was Plaid Cymru, but just one of their defeated incumbents, Helen Mary Jones, was a woman, while Leanne Wood successfuly defended the party’s South Wales Central seat. The Conservatives improved their overall standing and elected two women for the first time, Laura Jones and Lisa Francis, who had contested Meirionnydd Nant Conwy in 2001.

For more information on the devolved elections, as well as continuing updates on gender initiatives in Scotland and Wales, see the Gender and Constitutional Change project website.

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