3. Proposed new data collection
The previous section set out the limitations of the currently available data on the diversity of candidates. In this context, we have discussed potential options for improving data collection with the Electoral Management Board for Scotland, Electoral Commission, the Improvement Service, Cosla, Inclusion Scotland, Engender, the Equal Representation Coalition, the Poverty and Inequality Commission and the Scottish Parliament Political Parties Panel to date.
These discussions have indicated broad consensus and support for a proposal to collect diversity data via a non-mandatory questionnaire completed at the candidate nomination stage, when all candidates (or their agents) are completing nomination papers and submitting these to their local election office.
The objectives and scope of the project are set out below, and the following sections set out further detail on the proposed approach, which we would welcome feedback on.
The overall aim of the project is to improve the evidence base on the diversity of political representation in Scotland, helping to ensure that policies and initiatives in pursuit of an intersectional approach to increasing diversity are appropriately aligned.
In order to meet this aim, the project seeks to achieve the following objectives:
- to develop a robust process for collecting data on the diversity of candidates and elected representatives in a way that maximises the completeness of the data;
- to ensure that the data collected enables comparison with the national picture, intersectional analysis, and the monitoring of progress over time;
- to work with electoral partners to develop a process for data collection that is efficient and minimises burden on candidates and Returning Officers;
- to work collaboratively and transparently with equality stakeholders, political parties and others to ensure the process is well-designed, and candidates and interested parties have confidence in it; and
- to publish aggregated findings and data (fully complying with data protection laws).
The scope of the project is to collect data on the diversity of candidates and elected representatives at the 2022 local government elections. We will evaluate the success of the exercise after the election and any decisions on repeating it at future elections would be considered nearer the time. The project will capture the picture at the time of the election, and we do not propose to collect data at subsequent by-elections.
We propose to collect data on all protected characteristics apart from marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity, reflecting the approach set out in Section 106 of the Equality Act 2010. This would therefore include:
- Gender reassignment;
- Religion or belief;
- Sexual orientation.
We are also proposing the inclusion of questions on socio-economic status in line with the Fairer Scotland Duty, and questions on previous experience as a candidate / elected representative and caring responsibilities, to capture additional understanding of the diversity of candidates and elected representatives.
We are not proposing the inclusion of questions exploring the experiences of candidates in seeking nomination and any barriers they may have faced in seeking to become or previously serving as a councillor. This evidence would be extremely valuable and we intend to explore, with partners, options for conducting research on these issues following the election. As noted in the following section, the questionnaire proposed here is intended to be kept as short as possible in the hope that this maximises response rates and the completeness of the data gathered.