1. Executive Summary
The Scottish Government and partners recognise that gaining a better understanding of the demographic characteristics of electoral candidates and those who win elections is important in helping us assess the representativeness of our candidates and elected members and how that compares to the communities they serve.
The Scottish Government has therefore worked with the Electoral Management Board for Scotland (EMB), the Electoral Commission (EC), COSLA, the Improvement Service as well as a range of equality stakeholders to develop a survey collecting diversity data of candidates standing at the May 2022 Local Government elections.
All 2,548 candidates standing for election in the May 2022 Local Government elections in Scotland were invited to take part in the voluntary survey on candidate diversity characteristics.
720 responses were received to the survey, which represents an overall response rate of 28.2%. A summary of key findings against characteristics are detailed below.
Previous Political Experience
- 49% of respondents had never stood for election to a council previously, 33% had previously stood and were elected and 18% had previously stood and were not elected.
- 58% of respondents identified as male, 40% as female and 2% preferred not to answer
- The largest age group of respondents were those between 55 and 64 (28%).
- Overall, 70% of respondents were over the age of 45.
- The largest ethnic group were those identifying as White Scottish at 68%, with those identifying with any white group (including white Scottish, Other British, Polish and Other) totalling 92% of respondents overall.
Religion & Belief
- The largest group were those of no religion (48%), followed by followers of the Church of Scotland at 20%, Roman Catholics at 12% and Other Christians at 11%.
- Muslim respondents made up 2% while those belonging to another religion other than Christianity and Islam totalled 4%.
- Those who preferred not to say made up 3% of respondents.
- 80% of respondents identified as straight/heterosexual, 15% as lesbian, gay, bisexual or other and 5% preferring not to say.
Education and Qualifications
- The majority of respondents (67%) had a qualification above SVQ level 4, which is equivalent to a degree level or above qualification, and only 3% of respondents had no qualifications at all.
- The majority of respondents (66%) were employed at the time of the survey in some form of work (separate to being a councillor), with 33% being economically inactive and the remainder (approximately 1%) were unemployed, other or unknown.
- The largest group of respondents came from higher socio-economic backgrounds, with parents in a professional form of employment, making up 64% of all respondents.
- Those from an intermediate background amounted to 17% of respondents.
- 11% came from a working class or lower socio-economic background.
- 8% came from another background (including with parents who were retired).
- 67% of respondents did not have a limiting condition, 22% did have a limiting condition, 9% had a non-limiting condition and 2% preferred not to answer.
- 1% of respondents identified as Trans, 4% preferred not to answer.
- 28% of respondents provided care of some sort.
- The largest group were individuals who provided between 1 and 19 hours per week, representing 22% of the entire respondent group.
- 22% of respondents stated that they had children under the age of 16 to whom they provided care.
- Amongst 18 to 24 year olds there was a significantly higher proportion of males, both amongst those who stood for election, were elected (75% of those elected) or unelected (75% of those unelected), as compared to the overall population for that age group.
- This pattern also occurs for those aged 25 to 34 and those aged 65 or above.
- For age groups between 35 and 64 there is much less of a notable difference between males and females, both with regards to those who were successful at election and those that were unsuccessful, as compared to the overall population.
- This suggests that the gender imbalance for those standing for election is particularly acute at the younger and older age ranges amongst respondents.
- With regards to the interactions between sex and disability status the data suggests that females made up a higher percentage of elected candidate respondents with a limiting condition (54%).
Overall there is evidence to point towards the potential for over and under-representativeness of certain segments of the population amongst the candidate respondent group.
Specifically there appeared to be notable divergence between the profile of respondents as compared to the overall population with regards to sex, age, education, disability status and socio-economic background. Specifically, we saw evidence for fewer females, younger individuals, individuals with less than degree level qualifications, individuals with a limiting health condition and individuals from lower-socio economic groups as compared to the population as a whole.
Despite this there were also some results that ran contrary to this trend with there being a higher proportion of respondents who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or in some other way other than heterosexual as compared to the overall population.
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