Our latest Councillor Column is written by Graham Hardie, Liberal Democrat councillor for Helensburgh Central.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

During my time as a member of Argyll and Bute Council, I have been working with COSLA’s Barriers to Elected Office Special Interest Group.

This was established in 2018 to address barriers to greater representation of women and other under-represented groups, such as people of colour and disabled people, in local elected office.

This cross-party group, chaired by COSLA’s president, Councillor Alison Evison, has developed guidance for local authorities on lone working and family leave for councillors, as well as supporting UK-wide work to tackle online abuse faced by councillors.

Only 29 per cent of councillors and 16 per cent of council leaders in Scotland are female, compared to 51 per cent of the population.

LATEST HEADLINES: Tributes flood in after Helensburgh's most famous cat passes away

People of colour represent less than one per cent of local elected members in Scotland, compared to around four per cent of the population.

The group is currently focused on encouraging a wider range of people to consider standing in the 2022 Scottish council elections, including those wishing to stand as independent candidates in their local area.

There is a real opportunity at the 2022 local elections to further strengthen the voice of local democracy through increased diversity amongst Scotland’s councillors. This will mean that a much wider range of voices and experiences are able to directly influence local decision-making and ensure that local democratic processes truly reflect the diverse communities they serve.

At the moment the group is working with 'Elect Her' to promote their workshop series for women of colour who are considering standing for local elected office.

READ MORE: Graham Hardie: Healing process is a vital tool as NHS Highland aims to tackle bullying concerns of staff

Elect Her, which works across the political spectrum to support women from all backgrounds and beliefs, is developing guidance for independent candidates to provide information and signposting for people considering standing in the 2022 elections.

The group is also promoting the importance of diversity in local elected office and encouraging a wider range of people to consider standing in 2022 via media and press opportunities, both nationally and locally.

COSLA has launched an exciting new campaign called Why You?, which aims to encourage people to consider standing for office in next year’s local government elections across the country.

To inspire potential candidates, COSLA will be showcasing the experiences of current councillors via their website and social media channels each Wednesday using the hashtag #WhyYouWednesday.

READ MORE: Click here for all the latest Helensburgh and Lomond news headlines