SCOTTISH Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has been urged to introduce women-only shortlists for parliamentary candidates after his only female MSP was ousted from the top of one of his party’s regional lists by a male rival.

The move will mean Alison McInnes, the current LibDem MSP for North East Scotland, is unlikely to be re-elected to Holyrood and her seat could be taken by the former MSP Mike Rumbles, who secured top ranking.

McInnes is currently the only female LibDem parliamentarian in Holyrood and Westminster.

Apart from her, the party has four male MSPs and eight male MPs, including Alistair Carmichael. Its only MEP is a woman – Catherine Bearder.

Only one of the party’s eight regional lists for next year’s

Scottish Parliament elections is headed by a woman.

With support or the LibDems crumbling it is unlikely that any candidate placed less than first is likely to be elected under the proportional representation system.

Last night, campaigners for greater gender equality in Scottish politics urged Rennie to take action to redress the gender imbalance among elected parliamentarians in his party.

Emma Ritch, executive director of Engender, said: “The out-of-kilter gender balance of the LibDem regional lists, coupled with the party’s total lack of female MPs at Westminster, makes a strong case for decisive action on selection methods. The SNP, Scottish Labour, and Scottish Greens have all taken steps designed to improve the gender balance of the Scottish Parliament. This seems like the moment for the Liberal Democrats to join them.”

Her view was echoed by the Women 50:50 organisation, which is calling for new legislation to ensure that at least 50 per cent of candidates put forward by each political party to fight parliamentary elections are female.

Their spokeswoman said they were delighted when Rennie signed up to their campaign but it was now he needed to take action to redress the gender imbalance among their elected representatives.

She said: “I think Willie Rennie and the Liberal Democrats need to reflect on what they are doing wrong.

“Why it is that such a small proportion of their MSPs and leading candidates are women while there are so many very able women activists in their party? Why are there not more women in leadership positions?

“I would certainly recommend in the first instance the LibDems look at voluntary gender mechanisms to ensure more women candidates are in a position where they can get elected.”

A Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesman said the party wanted to see more women in elected positions in Westminster, Holyrood and on councils.