19th March 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Suffragette flag flies high at town hall

The suffragette flag was flying above the town hall in Lerwick today in honour of International Women’s Day.

The purple, white and green striped flag was used by womens’ political movement over a century ago in their fight for the right to vote.

And the woman who recently took the top official’s job at Shetland Islands Council, Maggie Sandison, was clearly delighted to see the flag flying.

But she said the struggle for equal opportunities was still ongoing.

“For me International Womens Day is a time to think about how hard people have had to struggle to get the freedoms that we currently have.

“It also reminds us that we’ve not got where we need to be.”

Shetland Islands Council chief executive Maggie Sandison.

She said women not receiving equal pay for equal work in many areas and a lack of women who progress to the top of many organisations were two examples of how the struggle for womens rights had not yet been resolved.

“Even the self-limiting choices around where they go in their education. I think girls still make choices about what are men’s professions or not, and you see under-representation of women in science and technology, because maybe they’re still ‘masculine’ careers.”

Film maker Liz Musser hails from America, but now calls Shetland her home. She has been shortlisted for an innovation award at the Celtic Media Festival.

“When I was in the States and I worked in news for a long time I lugged a camera around and I was the only woman in an all-male team.”

Ms Musser said back then “you didn’t see a lot of women carrying video cameras.”

There was a perception they were too heavy, she said.

She added now it was not a question of whether somebody was physically able to do something in film making.

This year she said was the first time a female cinematographer was nominated for an academy award at the Oscars.

“I haven’t really experienced a heck of a lot of sexist behaviour here.

“I think there is probably still a way to go for people, but there’s progress.”


  1. Peter Hamilton

    Maybe the suffragette flag could fly again soon if the UHA committee decided to allow Junior UHA to be open to all genders. That would also be something to mark and celebrate. Has anyone heard of a reasonable argument why only boys can carry torches?

    “We’ve not got where we need to be”, says Maggie Sandison, whilst rightly complaining society sends the wrong messages to girls about what they might achieve. Sooo, whose responsibility is it to rewrite the social rules? Ours surely? Everyone’s!

    If the UHA committee decide to continue to discriminate against girls then maybe next year the council should fly this flag until they change their minds. It is actually not hard for the council to stop their support of UHA, starting with the civic reception.

    If councillors are not prepared to act to put girls on the same level as boys then why fly this flag at all? Hypocritical feel-good tokenism?

    There already are too many “self-limiting” social messages to girls that limit their aspirations. Why should JUHA exclude girls?

    Why should the SIC’s UHA civic reception continue unless JUHA stops telling girls they matter less? Seriously, it is 2018. Presumably some Vikings were women…

    • Wayne Conroy

      Really Peter?

      Just wondering… Have you actually tried to do anything about it or have you just spoke about it on here? Im not saying you’re wrong in any way but you made about 50 posts in the last thread… One would imagine that was enough to express your feelings on the matter. Just a thought!

    • Ali Inkster

      And the dictator returns.
      I wonder Peter in your time at the AHS did you get involved with the junior UHA did you put in any time or effort to ensure the festival was a success?
      Or did you do then as you do now and snipe from the sidelines telling everybody else how wrong they are?

  2. John Tulloch

    A bit hard on poor Peter there, boys. Shetland women are obviously unaware of the injustices being heaped on them and need him to “mansplain” it to them.

    Their appreciation of his gallantry is evident in their response (lol).

  3. Johan Adamson

    The flag flying on the town hall was crowd funded and organised mainly by members of equality groups on facebook. The SIC agreed to fly the flag. It was funded within a short time of the appeal going out and the additional funds raised went to womens aid (I think).

  4. Johan Adamson

    And Erik, if you’re reading this thread, you asked me about the Brownies and I didn’t get a chance to respond. No, I don’t think girls only groups are necessary either. The behaviour of all of us is better in a mixed sex group. And what about those who seek gender neutrality? What about the harm it does to bairns to be placed in a gender category they grow up to believe is false? Just as there are lasses who want to guise there are boys I’m sure that don’t want to.

  5. John Tulloch

    I welcome Ms Sandison’s support for equality of opportunity for women. Will she also be raising a flag on the Town Hall for the other unfairly disadvantaged members of society?

    (Scottish Government Equality Outcomes: Gender Evidence Review, P56.)

    “16.3  However, in the following policy areas men do worse than women: ”
Male school pupils present more behavioural problems than females, and attain lower results.
    2. There are fewer male than female students in Further and Higher Education,
    3. Fewer male than female graduates secure positive destinations after FEHE.
    4. More young men than women are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET). 

    5. Men are more often the perpetrators and victims of violent crime than women.
    6. Men are more often stopped by the police than women, commit more crimes, receive more custodial sentences, and have higher reconviction rates. 

    7. Men have a higher incidence of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, attendance at Accident and Emergency departments and are more likely to be overweight;
    8. Men also have lower life expectancy. 

    9. Men participate in a narrower range of cultural activities than women.

    These are the roots of many of today’s social issues.

  6. Peter Hamilton

    How terrific that there are active equalities group organising in Shetland. Lets hope the SIC will support their future activities too!

  7. Peter Hamilton

    A fairer representation of the report John Tulloch cites would note the researcher prefacing the report with: “the views expressed are those of the researcher”.

    John breaks four bullet points down into nine but omits to do likewise for the content of paragraph 16.2.

    He omits to mention the researcher highlights in 17.1 “due to the time constraints…the evidence search has been selective rather than systematic or exhaustive”.

    There are dangers in John’s selectively partial approach.

    For example points 7 and 8 are followed in the relevant section of the full report by: “Despite this, they (men) are more likely to rate their health as good compared to women. Women have poorer mental health than men, and report less positive inpatient experience”.

    Similarly on his point 5 the full report notes: “men are both the majority of victims of violent crime and are the majority of perpetrators of violence – specifically violence against women”. These last four words matter.

    On John’s final point, “these are the roots of many of today’s social issues”, perhaps “results” would be better than “roots”.

    The social pressures on people of all genders include the ways in which femininity and masculinity are currently socially constructed.

    • John Tulloch


      You are trying to misrepresent me as not supporting equality of opportunity for women.

      I resent that. I am not. I am drawing attention to the serious injustices suffered by, especially, young, working/under class males. Fairness needs to apply across the board, to the “forgotten people” as well as to the trendy causes.

      As a purported socialist and egalitarian I am surprised you are unconcerned by the Scottish government report’s conclusions regarding males.

      Of course, as a “purported socialist and egalitarian”, in 2016, you spurned your own Labour Party’s fine female, socialist candidate, Robin Barton, by voting for a septuagenarian aristocrat representing another party. Then in 2017, you publicly supported the SNP candidate while remaining a member of the Labour Party.

      It isn’t a pretty picture, is it?

  8. Peter Hamilton

    Those concerned that social, cultural or community influences might be connected to violence against women might wish to view “Violence against Women: A literature review commissioned by the National Group to Address Violence Against Women”. http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2005/03/20895/55142

    Section 5 titled “Making the Link”, cites a World Health Organisation ecological model, stating: “The community in which the individual lives may contribute to their risk factors – which might include the physical environment in which they live, but also issues of social inclusion or exclusion.”

    it goes on to say: “Specific acts of violence against women may have their roots in a combination of factors … However, violence against women must be seen in the context of the structural inequality of the wider society within which it takes place, as exemplified in the attitudes, cultural norms and institutions of that society.”

    I found the link through the references in the document previously cited by John Tulloch, which perhaps shows the benefits of continuing this discussion.

    The needless institutional exclusion of girls in Junior UHA sends strong messages to children, informs their attitudes and potentially cements dangerous cultural norms. This is why children are to be protected from discrimination. Where’s the harm in change?

  9. John Tulloch


    I’m surprised to see the Treasurer of Shetland Labour Party so complacent about the injustices suffered by, especially, young, working/under class males.

    I’m unsure why the Scottish government (SG) report conclusions omits suicide rates and substance abuse however men are 2.5 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with alcohol related illnesses – bang in line with suicide rates 2.5 times higher for males. Updating the SG’s list gives:

    1. Male suicide rate 2.5 times female.
    2. Male hospital admissions (alcohol related) 2.5 times female.
    3. Male school pupils more behavioural problems and attain lower results.
    4. Fewer male than female students in Further and Higher Education,
    5. Fewer male than female graduates secure positive destinations after FEHE.
    6. More young men than women “Not in Employment, Education or Training” (NEET).
    7. Men more often perpetrators and victims of violent crime than women.
    8. Men more often stopped by police than women, commit more crimes, receive more custodial sentences, have higher re-conviction rates.
    9. Men have higher incidence of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, attendance at Accident and Emergency departments and are more likely to be overweight;
    10. Men have lower life expectancy.

    • Johan Adamson

      I am not complacent about the injustice suffered by anyone and I think it is a great concern. I was pointing out that the creation of gender differences are part of the problem for males too. It was found in the classroom (the reference I gave above) that there was a lot less violence and aggression when they did not have male roles. The experiment starts with the premise that male and female brains are identical, so it follows it is pressure we put on both genders to conform to stereotypes which is to blame for behavioural differences. The girls in the experiment became more confident and the boys thrived too.

  10. Peter Hamilton

    Tulloch claims I am unconcerned about the Scottish government report’s conclusions regarding males.

    I might equally well assert he is unconcerned about the links between discrimination against women and girls and violence against them. John’s championing of the “forgotten people” echoes the first tweet of president elect Trump. There is no debating with someone who quotes his own bitter invective one paragraph on.

    More to the point, an opportunity presents itself for the Lerwick UHA committee to remove the current Junior UHA discrimination against girls, which has long been a defining and accepted community norm; an issue of social exclusion which may possibly contribute to violence against women in Shetland.

    Equally an opportunity presents itself to the SIC’s policy makers to request their policy advisors to consider the possible link and whether continuing the high level of support for a discriminatory Lerwick UHA is in line with and supportive of other stated policy goals. It is hard to see how it can be.

    On a better note how cool are the SMUHA video clips? Women and girls wearing armour with axes aloft and women carrying torches in mixed squads? Shetland can be proud. Where is the harm in change?

    • Wayne Conroy

      Peter… Again i will ask… Have you actually tried to do anything about it or have you just spoke about it on here? If so what is it you have done may I ask?

      I cant help but get the feeling you are some sort of internet social justice warrior that likes to preach something then do nothing about it yourself expecting others to take up your cause.

      You seem to be a strong voice on here for the equal opportunity rights of women and young girls especially when it comes to taking part in UHA… Would be a shame if you were only just ranting on here rather than actually trying to do something about it.

  11. Peter Hamilton

    Hello Wayne. I did try previously, internally, as an SIC employee, to highlight the issue regarding JUHA, but as those involved are still employees its not fair to go into the details. I didn’t like the impact the gender exclusion had on some of the students I was working with, female and male. It wouldn’t be right to go into the details but I wish I had acted on earlier reservations.

    Around that time I did some supervised research into social exclusion as part of a research masters and having learned what I had learned, decided that I would not stay silent when this next became an issue.

    I know there are people in Shetland talking on social media about how to make more progress on all this and I did read that Johan thinks we need to keep the conversation going. As you know there are also the trolls…

    Maybe sensible changes are already planned and noone involved in the exclusion of girls from Junior UHA or council policy is following these discussions.

    What more do you think is needed Wayne? Direct action? Will it simply sort itself out if your reply is the last post or not?

    • Wayne Conroy

      I believe that anyone who seems to feel as strongly as you do should take a more direct approach to deal with the issue rather than speak about it on here where all that happens is trolls do get involved and people often end up going around in circles. Might I suggest perhaps approaching the UHA committee or the council in regards to it and going from there?

      In my opinion to speak about it on here will only reach a very limited audience… (most of which have already expressed their opinion on this matter be it positive or negative). I myself do not feel strongly enough to care either way what happens – I expressed my opinion that in my belief the festival would be improved greatly by the inclusion of women. I only tried to help with the trolls in the last thread as I believed they were there not to express their opinion but to bully and shut down anyone who expressed a different opinion to theirs – something I do feel quite strongly against.

      I just cant help but feel many are wasting their time trying to continue a discussion on here that is ultimately going to get nowhere unless they are willing to take further steps in reaching their goal.

    • Ali Inkster

      There’s your answer Wayne, he has previously sniped from the sidelines telling everyone how wrong they are but has not got involved and done the hardwork to bring about the change he desires.

      • Brian Smith

        Surely that’s a very good description of your own practice, Al!

      • Ali Inkster

        And what would you call your one line contributions Brian? I do get involved and put in my time, effort and money . What have you done for your community?

  12. David Spence

    I am all for equality in all spheres within society, but how do we tackle equality in regard to religion and how religion in itself can cause segregation, treating women and men separately, treating women as inferior to men?

    Should we in the west dictate to those people who base their ways and life according to religion and where women are regarded, as we in the west might see it, inferior? I am not directing my views onto a particular religion as such, but where do we balance fairness within society but at the same time grant those religious freedom and expression without causing conflict within society?

    Do we in the west have the right to interfere in the way different religions or cultures in other countries treat women?

    The express ‘ When in Rome ‘ may apply in most cases, but what would you do if those who object because of religion, where would the laws be in regard to this scenario and should we enforce what we interpret, albeit it may be wrong or right?

  13. Peter Hamilton

    This discussion helps to make sure different aspects have been considered and arguments tested. There is a lot to discrimination. Tolerating any aspect; sexism, xenophobia, racism, sectarianism, homophobia and trans-phobia, ageism etc. helps to keep the others in place; securing who has and does not have a right to speak out and who feels entitled to bully, harass etc.

    There are deeply set values in conflict: equality of opportunity and an end to discrimination and the patterns of domination they secure on one side, and the right of men to maintain their tradition unchanged on the other.

    It is two steps forwards one back on this threat at times, but the argument moves on. Previously the discussion touched on the possibility that discrimination can inform violence. On March 12th, above, that argument became more substantive with the perspective of the World Health Organisation that violence against women needs to be understood within patterns of social inclusion and exclusion.

    So… violence against women in Shetland is partly informed by social attitudes. Why exclude women and girls from Shetland’s major festival?

    Putting forwards these ideas is not that pleasant a task, but it is the one at hand for now.

  14. John Tulloch

    Johan, Ms Sandison may not, personally, have hoisted the flag however she certainly wrapped herself in it, Trump-like, openly promoting women’s issues.

    Her job is, impartially, to oversee implementation of SIC policy – equality for all, nor just women e.g. young working/under class males endure harrowing social injustices leading to many problems (see below).

    Partial, political campaigning by an official is inappropriate.

    1. Male suicide rate 2.5 times female.
    2. Male hospital admissions (alcohol related) 2.5 times female.
    3. Male school pupils more behavioural problems and attain lower results.
    4. Fewer male than female students in Further and Higher Education,
    5. Fewer male than female graduates secure positive destinations after FEHE.
    6. More young men than women “Not in Employment, Education or Training” (NEET).
    7. Men more often perpetrators and victims of violent crime than women.
    8. Men more often stopped by police than women, commit more crimes, receive more custodial sentences, have higher re-conviction rates.
    9. Men have higher incidence of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, attendance at Accident and Emergency departments and are more likely to be overweight;
    10. Men have lower life expectancy.

    Less glamorous than FTSE100 CEOs and government ministers, these are today’s “forgotten people”.

    • Johan Adamson

      Not sure why I am having to reply on behalf of Ms Sandison?

      I also don’t get your assumption that if she is pro women she is anti everything else? I do not get the attack on her?

      I repeatedly asked in the UHA thread – what are we saying to wir bairns? – the differing treatment of boys and lasses leads to problems for both sexes in different ways.

      • John Tulloch


        Perhaps it’s because she is a paid official who is not permitted to comment on political issues?

        I didn’t suggest she is “anti-anything” and I don’t disagree with what she said. Indeed, had she said, “we also need to put a flag up next week to promote men’s injustices and another the week after for… etc., in line with SIC policy of equality for all”, then I wouldn’t have mentioned it at all.

        Don’t you agree that the inequalities suffered by males I listed are, at least, as pressing as the ones faced by women?

  15. Haydn Gear

    David. People are almost always touchy about religion, especially the extreme ones. No need to tackle other religions though since it’s bad and irrational enough within the Christian area. There’s a long history of the various denominations being at each other’s throats along with recently revealed scandals. Other religions have their own shocking faults BY OUR STANDARDS. Is anybody right or are they all wrong? I should be happy to see a female pope in Rome and a woman running the show in Canterbury. Equality? No chance.

    • David Spence

      Thank you Haydn, for your comments.

      I mentioned religion because there are many countries which are very strictly controlled by religious dogma and social conditioning to the point it could be counter-productive, as we in the west may perceive, and subsequently avoid talking about it in case you offend somebody or whatever.

      However, as we are becoming more ‘ politically correct within our society ‘ we are seeing the rise of certain religions crying out their rights and philosophy within our way of life and, at the same time, demanding that we adhere to their calling no matter how backward or detrimental this may be to the way we live.

      It has also, I fear, brought to the fore the rise in right-wing politics and a great opposition to a said religion, on the basis of social conditioning and religious power being the ultimate choice?

      I can, to a degree, see why this rise against the said religion, but cannot help thinking a wider spectrum of the political basis for such a rise and the motive behind it?

      Up to 9/11, there was no mention, literally, of any religious division or agenda against one religion to this of another.

  16. Peter Hamilton

    In 15 posts here and previously, John “I strongly support equality of opportunity for all UK citizens” Tulloch, who doesn’t want to be misrepresented “as not supporting equality of opportunity for women” (even though he wasn’t) has yet to say whether he believes it is right for girls to be excluded from Junior UHA. Strange but true.

    He is, however, happy to tell Shetland’s new female Chief Executive off for speaking to the media on International Women’s Day. How very dare she point out women get paid less and girls make self-limiting educational choices, give credit where its due and point out there is still some way to go? What a total and utter affront to democracy and civilisation as we know it!

    It is difficult to see how John Tulloch can interpret Maggie Sandison’s comments above as “partial political campaigning” – a somewhat bizarre silencing attack given John’s unquestionable passion for equality of opportunity.

    If John is this unwilling to state his opinion on whether it is right or wrong to discriminate against girls or whether there is any harm in UHA changing, folk might want to question his political motivation alongside his subterranean methods. Egalitarian? No comment!

  17. ian tinkler

    “a female pope in Rome”, Haydn!! Heavens above, that would mean contraceptives given away by the church. Women’s rights and freedom going that far, let us pray for that. It is only a few generations ago heretics and witches were burnt at the stake by our “forgiving” Christian Church. Not exactly what Jesus Christ ever taught. “It is a long time coming, but change is going to come.” We may even start to love our Muslim brothers and sisters, and who knows after all our past persecution of non-Christians, they may love start us back!!.

  18. Haydn Gear

    I well understand what you are saying David but I fail to see how and why you assert that prior to 9/11 ‘“there was no evidence, literally,of any religious division or agenda against one religion to this of another’”. In my understanding, simmering religious infighting has existed for a very long time. Due to political and social upheavals it has spilled over to fuel serious changes to our way of life as well as to the ways of life of others. I suspect that there are dark forces actively trying to cause upheaval and dissent as a means to infiltrate and take control of what we see as being ours. We are living in a world which is in a state of flux. Surely, everyday events point to this being so. Religion has become a tool to create very serious divisions.

    • David Spence

      With the exception of Northern Ireland, which may start up again after Brex*hit, and the odd football fan conflict, I was merely mentioning the fact the Muslim Religion was not high on the agenda of politics or of any social understanding, Haydn.

      However, looking at the situation from a wider spectrum, one can certainly see a change in opinion of one countries agenda of focusing our attention to a different global enemy to this of what used to be Russia and Communism. Now, it is Muslims and their religion being the replacement.

      You only have to look at recent history to see this change in one countries agenda of diverting our eyes to another group of people who pose a threat to us and our freedom.

      I know we have digressed from the original subject, but my initial mentioning of religion and how this affected the role of women has not been mentioned at all, despite its great impact it has on women in different cultures and countries.

      It is also due to certain individuals in our society demanding that we incorporate religious rights which conflict in how we treat women, which I vehemently object too.

  19. Peter Hamilton

    John Tulloch presses on but Maggie Sandison has done nothing wrong. Her statement wasn’t party political and does not disagree with any position held by any political party in Scotland.

    John wants his list of inequalities faced by men to be considered as “just as pressing as” the ones faced by women, but do they result from discrimination against men?

    There are different outcomes for women and men. The issue here is whether to limit some negative outcomes by challenging deliberate discrimination against women and girls.

    John hasn’t proven any of his ten points are the result of deliberate discrimination. Ill-health, alcoholism, suicide and violent crime can, however, result from social pressures on men and boys to conform to a limiting, outdated and unhelpful idea of what it means to be a “real man”. Lerwick’s UHAs may reinforce these through exclusion.

    It has genuinely surprised me that no-one has questioned that UHA might be linked to patterns of violence against women in Shetland. Is that just accepted as possible and acceptable?

    UHA may also be contributing to social ills for men and boys. A more family-friendly, less genedered UHA could be better for all. Where is the harm in change?

    • John Tulloch

      Vintage Hamilton filibuster. Blarney and obfuscation – by blunderbuss!

      Sorry, Peter, I don’t need to “prove” anything. The litany of social injustices suffered by, especially, young, working/under class males I posted above was obtained from the Scottish government’s own gender equality report and NHS Scotland.

      You are clearly unconcerned about the fate of these people when you waft away their plight with such glib arguments as;

      “John Tulloch hasn’t proven any of his ten points are the result of deliberate discrimination”.

      By your words and actions, Peter, you are discriminating against them now – “och, they’re men, so they don’t count!” Is that it?

      • Johan Adamson

        So what John would you like to see done?

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