Marking the enormous contribution made by women in Scotland

How we commemorate our history is enormously important – it shapes how we understand our society, and is a vital part of our thriving tourism industry.

But too often our public memorials can be about Kings and Generals and not about the ordinary and extraordinary Scots who’ve shaped our country – and women in particular are shockingly underrepresented.

Today, on International Women’s Day, a new statue of Mary Barbour is being unveiled in Glasgow.

Mary Barbour led thousands of tenants in rent strikes against steep rent rises during World War 1, when men from many households were at war. Her campaign won and rents were capped at pre-war levels.

It’s a powerful example of how ordinary women have shaped Scotland – and it’s absolutely right that she is publicly commemorated and that her story is remembered.

I asked all Scottish councils for a list of memorials to women in their area.

Aberdeenshire Council were not able to name a single statue, plaque or other memorial in my constituency.

That isn’t the case everywhere. Famously, Edinburgh has more statues of animals than of named women. But my research found that there were in fact dozens of plaques and other memorials in the city – sometimes we just don’t know where to look.

That’s why I’m proposing a new tourist trail highlighting the best memorials to women across Scotland. This would give the public and tourists an easy resource to explore women’s history, as well as supporting existing work to comprehensively map all of Scotland’s monuments to women.

But as well as celebrating the memorials that already exist, local authorities across Scotland need to do more to recognise the contribution of women in their area.

Today I’m asking members of the public to suggest women who should be commemorated, or what existing monuments should be included in a tourist trail of Scotland’s women. You can contact me by email at or on twitter at @GillianMSP

I hope this is a first step in better recognising the enormous contribution made by women in Scotland.