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Monday, June 1, 1998 Published at 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK

UK Politics: Talking Politics

Selecting the candidates

BBC Scotland's Political Editor Brian Taylor looks at the main parties' candidate selection process which seems to be promising a greater emphasis on sexual equality than Westminster.

Preparations for the Scottish Parliament continue apace. A scrutiny team is examining design options for the permanent site which will be next to Holyrood Palace at the foot of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

After considerable controversy, the temporary home for the Parliament has been named as the Church of Scotland's Assembly building on the Mound in Edinburgh.

Scotland's political parties are busy with the process of selecting candidates. Each party has pledged that it will seek the very best available from the widest range of backgrounds.


[ image: Donald Dewar]
Donald Dewar
For Labour in particular, Donald Dewar - himself a potential candidate for the Scottish Parliament - has stressed that party time-servers need not expect advancement.

Equally, Mr Dewar has dismissed cynical suggestions that only the most unswerving adherents of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, will be considered.

There has been a concomitant row over women's representation.

The original aim of women's groups had been to secure 50/50 representation - full parity of men and women. But that has been diluted.

Labour is now committed to a twinning system whereby two neighbouring constituencies would jointly select one man and one woman. Scottish Labour officials insist they can overcome doubts over the legality of any such manipulation of the selection system.

The Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats had demanded the suspension of the Sex Discrimination Act to facilitate moves towards gender balance.

In the absence of that pledge - and fearing legal challenge - they have now dropped their plans to tweak their selection in the direction of balance. But Liberal Democrat women activists say they expect local parties to bear the issue in mind when selecting candidates.

The Nationalists have yet to determine their selection method.

The Tories regard mechanisms to boost women's representation as patronising tokenism.

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