National Equalities Speech - Charlotte Armitage
Let me first start by congratulating and thanking Cailyn for the fantastic work and the level of commitment she has demonstrated as our National Equalities Officer over the last year - it is clear from this that Cailyn cares deeply about and is dedicated to ensuring equal treatment for the all young members of our party and indeed across society.
I also want to thank those who proposed me to stand for this position, their support and encouragement has been a huge factor in putting myself forward. Some of you may already know me, for those who don’t; hi nice to meet you, I’m a massive Harry Potter geek with a passion for equality.
This passion stems from the inequality I have faced throughout my entire life. I am a Care Experienced young woman who grew in up a deprived area. I don’t come from a wealthy family, I haven’t gone to an ancient university and my life chances are significantly poorer than many of you people here today. However, by all intent and purposes, I stand here today as a positive statistic. When I was a child, the state had to intervene in my childhood as a result of systematic abuse of all types, that I suffered growing up. This upbringing has shaped my narrative and my story for the rest of my life. This means I know directly how it feels to come up against stigma, systemic oppression and discrimination. This is further reinforced as a young woman in politics, I know how it feels to be dismissed, or valued only for how I look rather than what I say. It is this that has led me to stand for this position today.
That overwhelming crushing feeling of societal oppression and discrimination is something that has also prompted me into dedicating my working life to supporting and caring for minority groups and campaigning for equal treatment and rights for the most vulnerable groups of people in today’s society.
My first two jobs involved caring for the elderly, those with disabilities, those recovering from alcohol and drug addiction and those suffering from mental ill health within in my own local authority. I was in this role for two years. My current jobs - with Who Cares? Scotland and as an MP’s Caseworker - involve frequently acting on behalf of the most marginalised groups of people in Scotland. Most recently - two weeks ago to be precise - I took part in the WYSE International Leadership Programme in India. A programme designed for emerging world leaders with a passion for making our world a better and more equal place to live. All of this demonstrates the sheer level of commitment and dedication I have for equality - which I believe can and will be transferred into this position.
Our party continuously outlines its commitment to ensuring Scotland is a place where people from all backgrounds are able to achieve their full potential. Regardless of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Disability, Care Experience, Religion or Social Status.
For me, it is absolutely essential that our organisation mirrors this and does so in a way that is not tokenistic. I want and I’m sure you all agree, for the YSI to be as transparent, unbiased, fair-minded and non-discriminatory as we possibly can be and beyond. Our members are paramount and we must provide an inclusive organisation to guarantee this.
We are at a crucial moment in time where equality is not only more relevant than ever, it is needed more than ever. 4% of Scotland’s population are ethnic minorities, a fifth of the population has a disability, 2.2% of the population identifies as LGBTI, 0.3% are Care Experienced and more than half of Scots have religious beliefs. It is simply not good enough that we currently only represent some of these groups within the YSI.
Friends, we must address political disengagement and lack of representation from ethnic minority groups within the YSI, therefore, if successful I will explore ways the NEC and all regions can encourage, invite and support members from ethnic minority groups to become involved and flourish whilst doing so. We should learn from the 2017 snap election, where votes from the BME population made a huge difference to the overall result. 65% of the BME voters opted for Labour. It makes sense to me and I believe we absolutely have to make this a YSI priority.
If elected, I plan to support all regions, with the help of the NEC, in ensuring that all events and meetings are inclusive to all our members. This includes respecting religion, beliefs, disabilities and age when making decisions in where meetings and events take place - for example not meeting in a pub so we include our members who are younger than 18 or those who may feel uncomfortable in this setting due to the beliefs or making sure meeting spaces are accessible for disabled members. By making changes so simple and somewhat small, we will make certain that intersectionality is placed right at the very heart of the YSI.
Conference, something very dear to me is Care Experience. Care Experience means many things - living at home with social work involvement, living with relatives, in foster care, residential care or even being adopted. Sadly, Care Experience highlights overlooked inequality that the SNP is working hard to address and is assisting in massively. By instructing the Independent Care Review it is absolutely clear this party is committed to making sure that people like me are no longer ignored, no longer stigmatised, no longer protested against for our very existence. However, this is only small action in recognising the inequality young people who are currently in care or have experienced it, face.
Therefore, let me make it clear, in this role, with support from the NEC, the YSI will tackle head on the non-consideration of Care Experience as an equality issue. I will ensure this happens by guaranteeing standing orders and operating procedures reflect all protected characteristics - including Care Experience.
By following in the footsteps of the First Minister, we will set an example in youth politics, as well as for the rest of Scotland and we will show Care Experienced people our utmost support.
Having recently come back from the United Nations Certified WYSE International Leadership Programme in India and being even more switched on to global issues, I now believe that the YSI has a huge part to play in tackling global inequality. Scotland is already setting the stage for making our society more inclusive and fair. The SNP is leading the way towards levelling the playing field for Care Experienced people and those who identify as LGBTI - the announcement of LBGTI Inclusive Education in all state schools is a fine example of this. The YSI has also played a vital role in ensuring this.
But I believe we can do more. If elected, I intend to work alongside our International Officer to make global connections to spread the SNP and YSI message of equality for all. I will use my connections in the European Parliament and in the United Nations to provide the YSI with the platform to discuss and give input on global inequality issues. Having a platform like this to give our input on global issues - like gender inequality, LGBTI and Care Experience - provides the YSI with a unique space to influence larger scale and more meaningful changes, not only in Scotland but across all continents. I am committed to making sure this happens and I will ensure this by coordinating formal responses to global inequality issues.
Finally, I believe the role of Equalities Officer is far more in-depth than just minority groups and protected characteristics. The role of equalities is about promising equal treatment for all our members. To me this means all members whatever region they are in - be it the Highlands and Islands or the Scottish Borders. I cannot and will not sit back and allow members to feel overlooked in the planning of events/meetings because of where they are based in the country. It is completely unfair and not reflective of our party.
Therefore, I intend to make certain that NEC meetings, National Council and the YSI National Conference venture away from the central belt, visiting every region so that all members feel included, respected and most importantly that their views and opinions matter.
To conclude, by working towards and doing our best to achieve equality within the YSI we will set a precedent for an Independent Scotland, where societal oppression is thing of the past. An Independent Scotland, with a strong understanding of global inequality. Providing equal opportunities in politics assists in pushing Scotland closer to becoming the best place in the world to grow up and maintains our position as global leaders of equality. If elected, I will work extremely hard in helping us achieve and preserve this.