Abuse of elected officials ‘undermining democracy’

Labour councillor Alison Evison will speak at the Local Government Association conference.

Westminster: Alison Evison will speak on Monday. Pixabay
Westminster: Alison Evison will speak on Monday.

Work to end the abuse of elected officials in Scotland is to be highlighted by the president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla).

Alison Evison will speak at the Local Government Association conference in Westminster on Monday and explain how safety is being improved north of the border.

She is to tell the Civility in Public Life event how intimidation and abuse is “fundamentally undermining British democracy” but hopes by tackling this “women and other underrepresented groups feel safe to stand” as councillors.

The Scottish Labour councillor for North Kincardine recently wrote to the Commons Speaker to condemn the use of pejorative and inflammatory language.

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Ahead of the conference, Ms Evison said she was “delighted to contribute” to the event.

“Cosla’s Barriers to Elected Office Special Interest Group have highlighted the issue of the abuse of councillors, particularly online, and raised a number of other safety concerns that need to be addressed to ensure councillor wellbeing,” she said.

“Tackling these will also help ensure that women and other underrepresented groups feel safe to stand.

“Female elected members receive significantly more abuse than their male colleagues and it differs in content, much of it being violent, anti-female vitriol.

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“A greater than average amount of online abuse is also directed at councillors with other protected characteristics, such as those from ethnic minorities.

“This issue requires our urgent attention.

“In Scotland, we are taking action against the intimidation and abuse of councillors and seeking to improve safety through the review of the Councillor Code of Conduct and other routes.

“This event will support us in understanding these issues from a UK-wide perspective and I look forward to opportunities to work with partners across the UK to tackle this problem in the coming year.”

It comes after Ms Evison made a public call for a second independence referendum – despite her position as deputy leader of the opposition at Aberdeenshire Council.

She made the announcement on Saturday via Twitter, claiming democracy has become “fragile”.