Deputy First Minister speaks at GCU conference

22 January 2015

Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP

Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP

The work and enduring impact of research carried out by the late Professor Ailsa McKay was celebrated at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) today, Thursday, January 22. 

Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP joined delegates, staff and policy makers at the GCU conference hosted by the Women in Scotland’s Economy (WiSE) research group, which was founded by Professor McKay.

The internationally respected feminist economist played a key role in advising governments on issues including equality and childcare, and was committed to improving the lives of families in Scotland and beyond. 

Mr Swinney described Professor McKay as a “major champion of equality”.

He added: “It is an honour to have been asked to speak at this event as it gives me the opportunity to reflect on the profound influence Professor McKay’s work has had on government policy, and in particular, this government’s approach to improving the lives of women, children and families.

“Ailsa was an economist with a passion for, and understanding of, the role of women in, and their contribution to, our economy and our society. She campaigned passionately on the issues of female employment and childcare and I am proud that, today in Scotland, female employment is currently at a record level of 1,292,000. We have also seen a narrowing in terms of the gap between male and female employment rates in recent years. Nevertheless, I recognise, as Ailsa would, that there is still progress to be made.

“This government's priorities are to improve outcomes for children, especially those who are more vulnerable or disadvantaged, and to support parents to work, train or study. The fact that she made such a meaningful contribution to that process is a great legacy for Ailsa.”

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies CBE reflected on Professor McKay’s life, work and legacy, which continues through the work of WiSE.

Professor Marilyn Waring, Professor of Public Policy at AUT, Auckland, New Zealand, and an Honorary Graduate of GCU, described Professor McKay as a wonderful feminist economist and a close friend.

Professor Waring said: “Ailsa was a woman who wanted to change the world. She used all of her skills, advocacy, and networks to make that impact in Scotland.” 

Jim Campbell, Acting Director of WiSE, said: “Ailsa aspired for gender equality, challenged existing norms, and worked to improve the quality of life for women, their children and families. WiSE was Ailsa’s vision and the work of WiSE continues. We are honoured to celebrate her life and the outstanding contribution she made in Scotland and on an international platform to enrich the lives of women and our society.”

Former First Minister Alex Salmond MSP will address the final day of the conference tomorrow.

Visit the WiSE website for more information on the work of the research group.