KILTSThe SNP’s six-man shortlist for the European elections was announced at the weekend. Sorry, not quite: five-man and one-woman. In 2009, the last time the SNP selected for Europe, they managed exactly the same poor gender ratio. In 2004 they selected eight candidates, of whom only the seventh was a woman. In that election Janet Law would have been elected only if the SNP had won every single MEP slot going.

Their list for 1999 was somewhat better, with three women out of eight, although again none were in a winnable position. You have to go back almost twenty years to the pre-PR days of 1994 to find the last time an SNP woman was elected to the European Parliament: the indomitable Winnie Ewing, of course.

There’s been plenty of chatter about the gender gap on the referendum, and rightly so. Yesterday’s figures showed 47% of men in favour of independence compared to just 25% of women. What with the European elections coming just a few months before that vote (which is therefore inevitably being seen already as a mock referendum rather than the election of mere MEPs), you might have assumed the SNP would have taken this opportunity to select a decent gender-balanced list.

There’s still a second stage to go, of course. Predictions of Alyn Smith’s deselection following the NATO debacle might yet effectively come true. Questions might be asked about Hudghton’s total absence of public profile. It’s possible that the one woman on the list, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, will come out ahead of those two sitting MEPs, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Even if she does, it’s no good for the sexist old guard in any party to claim they just select on merit when over and over again they keep picking more men than women. After four selections in a row, it’s not possible to claim that’s a coincidence, especially when more than 70% of the MSPs the SNP elected in 2011 were also blokes. The SNP do in fact have a lot of first-class women, both activists and those already elected, and more of them should have got the nod here, through a formal gender balance mechanism if necessary. It can be done.

Why do I care? First, I want to live in a society where the best people are selected and elected, not one where being a bloke comes with a massive advantage – and yes, I know there are other inequalities to consider too. Second, until the referendum’s won or lost, that vote is the prism through which almost all of Scottish politics is examined, and I want a win. How the SNP behave is inextricably and unfortunately tied to public perceptions of independence itself, and results like this make it look like a future Scotland will be a business-as-usual boys’ club.

Declaration of interest: Natalie McGarry, of this parish, was one of the women not to make the cut, which I think is unfortunate. This post was all my own idea, and I have shown her it once complete only for any factual corrections.