Mon, 27 May 2024

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By Baroness Smith of Llanfaes
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Although I am leaving Parliament, I hope the fight for paid miscarriage leave lives on

(Credit: AdobeStock)

3 min read

As we return for this Parliament’s final session, and many colleagues gear up for the general election next year, the change in political weather is palpable. I recently announced my intention to stand down as an MP at the next election – not an easy decision after more than a decade working in politics, but certainly the right one.

Last year, my partner and I welcomed our son into the world. As a same-sex couple, the journey to becoming parents was at times challenging, and brought into sharp focus the everyday reality of many aspiring families: juggling fertility treatment and holding down careers. In the end, the challenges were all worth it. 

And, I am delighted to say, there will be another addition to our family next year. Parenthood virtually eclipses your worldview and upends your perspective on what is important. 

While many colleagues are living proof you can be a politician and raise a family, the role of an MP is hardest when you’re missing some of the simple things like your baby’s first steps or first words. 

We often seek to remind people politicians are in fact people with families, private lives and loved ones. But we don’t speak often enough about the reality of nights away from our families and hours spent in voting lobbies. Even the feeling of a harrowing defeat in a division pales into insignificance when compared to time spent away from a tiny person who wants their mummy home to read a bedtime story. 

While the political anorak in me will never be done with politics, and I am exceptionally proud of the work I have undertaken over the past eight years, it’s time to put my family first. They deserve all of me. These last eight years have been eventful, to say the least. Between Brexit, a pandemic, multiple elections and prime ministers, it feels a great deal longer. I am forever grateful to my constituents for placing their trust in me as their representative through all this tumult. 

We don’t speak often enough about the reality of nights away from our families and hours spent in voting lobbies

My journey into politics began in my teens, long before the SNP’s electoral successes, so to be part of the 56 SNP MPs returned in the 2015 election was an unimaginable privilege and honour. It was an incredible accomplishment for the party and for Scottish independence. 

I have sought to be a trailblazer for equality. In 2015, it felt like there was momentum for women’s representation in politics, 50-50 boardrooms and the #MeToo movement. It was a time when things were really happening. People were talking about gender equality and the gender pay gap. We were discussing trans equality before it was such a contentious issue and worked to try to make life better for those with protected characteristics. 

I hope that one day we can look back with pride on the equality, fairness, and progress we have made and that we do not see a backslide on our hard-won human rights. My campaign for paid miscarriage leave, for example, is something about which I feel strongly. It has clearly had an impact, with many large businesses and local authorities implementing paid miscarriage leave policies on their own, pre-empting legislation. 

To come up against government ministers saying time and again, “No, this won’t be done,” can be exceptionally frustrating. The government’s refusal to legislate for paid miscarriage leave is a great disappointment, particularly for those affected by pregnancy loss. I sincerely hope the issue will be taken forward by a future administration. 

I know the wheels of politics will continue to grind along slowly. My greatest wish is that my children will witness the positive changes for which I have strived during my time in Parliament.

Angela Crawley is the Scottish National Party MP for Lanark and Hamilton East

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