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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Does voting improve lives?

This opinion piece is almost 10 years old

Marion Davis from One Parent Families Scotland argues that participation in elections would increase if inequality was tackled

Marion Davis, policy and research advisor, One Parent Families Scotland
Marion Davis, policy and research advisor, One Parent Families Scotland

The average single parent is a woman in her mid-30s. Less than one-in-ten is a single father. A very small number are teenage parents.

Single parents face many of the challenges being a mother brings: no time to register to vote; organising childcare if you want to attend meetings or debates; finding space to catch up with the political debate; even just to read a paper or watch TV!

On election day itself, a single parent may have great intentions to vote but family pressures mean they don’t make it to the polling station.

However single parents face an additional challenge in that they having the combined role of sole provide, which means many live on low incomes and often in poverty. For those single parents who are in debt, who have low skills, who are isolated and who sometimes have poor health and low confidence, participating in our democracy is perhaps not the number one priority.

Single parents now also have the additional pressure of being harassed by Jobcentre Plus or their Work Programme provider to find paid work, under threat of cuts to an already miserly benefit. Many of the parents who contact One Parent Families Scotland are scrabbling to make ends meet to buy the essentials, and when discussions turn to politics there is often a feeling that voting doesn’t really change much.

When discussions turn to politics there is often a feeling that voting doesn’t really change much

The referendum seems to have lit a spark. When the deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon visited our Maryhill hub she found parents keen to hear the arguments about the referendum and she left the event well behind schedule! However, making a connection with politicians is expensive. For parents to get together they need bus fares, childcare and the support to feel confident to ask the questions they feel are important.

Research shows that high earners and the middle class are the most likely to vote. As many as half of people in the poorest 20% don’t vote. Over three-quarters of individuals in one-parent families appear in the bottom two-fifths of the income distribution after housing costs and over half are in the bottom fifth. These are the families whose lives are most directly affected by political decisions about social security, childcare, early year’s policy, and health and social care. If they don’t vote, it’s often easier for politicians to ignore their needs.

Oxfam has shown that the richest five families in Britain are wealthier than the bottom 20% of the population in the UK. In Scotland three families are richer then the poorest 20% of the population. Perhaps we need to address this link to make participation in our democracy worthwhile, where a vote for change would actually see life improve for our poorest children - many of who live with one parent.

Marion Davis is policy and research advisor for One Parent Families Scotland.

This is part of a series of TFN articles that focus on the #Missingmillion people who are not intending to vote in the Scottish independence referendum on 18 September.



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almost 10 years ago
No. Because no matter what people do corrupt leftwing organisations like the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations will break the law and do whatever they want, and deny the rights of the people.
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