IT’S well known how frustrated I get with Westminster – I’ve spoken about it often enough. The antiquated systems and procedures, the constant childish braying in the debating chamber, the personal abuse many of us have to put up with – it’s no secret that I often find it depressing being there.

But for all the faults with our electoral system and the “Westminster ways”, I do know that things were so much worse in the past and particularly for women. Progress may be at a snail’s pace but it’s progress all the same. Change may have been resisted but change came.

And had the biggest and most significant change not happened 100 years ago, my views of Westminster would have been from the outside looking in. I’m not saying they’d have been much different mind you, but I would not have been an MP, I would not have been able to speak up for people in my constituency and across Scotland, I would not even have been allowed a say in which man was to be my own MP. That change, the Representation of the People Act in 1918, allowing some women to vote, didn’t just happen because it was the right thing to do. It happened because women fought for the right to vote.

It happened because women took risks and made sacrifices for the right to vote. It happened because women died fighting for the right to vote.

And not just women. I love the story of nine-year-old Bessie Watson from Edinburgh who had her own special role in the suffragette struggle. At school she tied her pigtails up with ribbons in the suffragette colours. And after school she played her bagpipes outside Calton Jail so that the suffragette prisoners, many on hunger strike, would know they hadn’t been forgotten.

If you are a woman or a girl, non-binary or you identify as a woman, you are invited to what looks like being a spectacular event on Sunday, June 10, in Edinburgh.

Thousands of women will descend on the city (as will thousands at the same time in London, Cardiff and Belfast) to be part of the biggest mass participation artwork that’s ever been seen here. An event organised by PROCESSIONS.

At the start of the route, you will be given a cotton wrap in green, white or violet – the suffragette colours. Did you know, by the way, that they are those colours because their first letters stand for Give Women the Vote? I only discovered that very recently and I like it. Then we will be choreographed into bands and together these thousands of women will appear as a “flowing river of colour through the city streets”. Live aerial filming by the BBC will show us forming the suffragette flag.

PROCESSIONS has already started the preparations and for weeks people have been making handmade contemporary banners. They echo the banners carried by the suffrage movement, but they voice the hopes and concerns of women today. The PROCESSIONS website has a toolkit for making them and there are banner-making workshops taking place across the country. And of course I am going to tell you that the best banners will come from Paisley but that’s because it’s probably true. The Tannahill Centre in Ferguslie Park isn’t in my constituency but that doesn’t stop me recognising the amazing work being done there for PROCESSIONS.

The “Feegie” women have been working with artist Mandy McIntosh on their banners, expressing their concerns and looking at the class division that meant 100 years ago, because they were working class, they still wouldn’t have had the vote.

It’s also worth noting that the national co-ordinators for Scotland for PROCESSIONS are another Feegie woman, Jean Cameron, who brilliantly led the bid for Paisley to be City of Culture in 2021, and Anne McLaughlin, my former MP colleague. As I said at the start of this column, there are so many things wrong with the Westminster system, not least the fact that there seems to be no great desire to change. So I’ll keep talking about what I think’s wrong with the place.

But I’ll always acknowledge that if I can, as a typical young woman, not only vote but stand for election and become the MP for my home constituency, then we’ve definitely come a long way.

I’m not grateful to Westminster for allowing me to vote, the situation should never have happened in the first place. But I am and always will be grateful to all of those women who risked everything and some who paid with their lives so that women were able to vote. Let their persistence be a lesson to everyone fighting for justice today. And let’s all decide that if they could do that for us, the least we can do for them is to remember them properly. PROCESSIONS on Sunday, June 10 seems the ideal way to do that.