THE upcoming Holyrood election will play host to a shifting dynamic in Scottish politics. For the first time since devolution, the leaders of the three main parties are all women, as is the Presiding Officer.

While it’s marked change from the male-dominated elections of previous years, it isn’t a sign that we are reaching equality in representation.

Some 76 per cent of Scottish councillors are men, as are 65 per cent of MSPs.

The success of individual women in rising to the top doesn’t mitigate the many barriers that women entering politics have to contend with. Sexism and misogyny towards women in public life too often acts as harmful disincentive to the diverse women parties need to attract.

This departure from the status quo at Holyrood elections is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that political reporting in Scotland is mature and forward-thinking. While progress has undoubtedly be made; there is always more to do. In the ongoing debate about online misogyny in Scottish politics and how we tackle it, one thing has become clear. No party or political perspective is immune.

Sexism, gender stereotyping, and the objectification of women is still prevalent in Scottish society. The only way to facilitate a major cultural shift is to start with how women are represented; how they are represented in politics and how their contribution is framed to us by the media. We will go a long way to addressing attitudes and online abuse if casual sexism isn’t dressed up as news by journalists who are paid to know better.

Language is important. Too often, across the UK political media and institutions, we see words used to describe women that are rarely used in relation to their male counterparts, even when their behaviour is arguably the same. Nothing quite sums it up better than the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, gesticulating wildly and bellowing at a female MP to stop her “shrill shrieking”.

Nicola Sturgeon will probably wear the same outfit on different days in upcoming campaign. That’s what clothes are for and that’s not news. Kezia Dugdale might challenge Sturgeon on her record in Government. That’s not whining and it certainly isn’t bitching. If the three leaders clash at debates, it’s not a cat fight. Tempers may fray but nobody is being hysterical. Women don’t have claws, so let’s not read of any “coming out”.

It is important that we talk about women in politics; the hurdles, the campaigns for better representation and how a feminist parliament can be a force for change. Hopefully, as expected, the number of women elected to the Scottish Parliament in May will increase. If that does happen however, we can manage perfectly well without the brazen “Blair’s Babes”-style headlines.

Although if we are to go down that road, then “Scotland’s Sisters” has a much better ring to it.

Kirsty Strickland won the Write to End Violence Against Women Awards bursary to write a series of articles for The National, media partners and judges, as part of a campaign by Zero Tolerance and other women’s groups.