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Campaigning - Political Lobbying
A short guide to lobbying politicians in general, and
more specially in relation to the cuts in local government.
In the past, we have not made enough use of this important campaigning
tool. It only takes about ten letters for an elected member to
start to take notice. Imagine the impact of even ten percent of
members making contact. Your voice as an individual voter is extremely
Why should you Lobby politicians?
Lobbying is the process of trying to influence policy by contacting
politicians to highlight an issue of concern to you. UNISON Scotland
is running national campaigns to protect public services but local
lobbying is extremely effective. Politicians will tend to give
more attention to a letter from a constituent than from an organisation
- even those they support. They are sensitive to the opinion of
their electorate. Few politicians have such large majorities that
they can take voters for granted, and most want a reputation as
a good MP/ MSP/ Councillor. Your letter/meeting could make all
the difference in influencing what issues your MP, MSP or councillor
decides to focus on.
Who to contact?
In order to lobby politicians, it is of course necessary to identify
who your local politicians are. In Scotland you have a range of
politicians to lobby about cuts in local government and you will
need to identify who to approach with which message.
Local authority areas are covered by a number of MPs, there will
be constituency and list MSPs and each council ward will have
three or four councillors. Individuals must contact the appropriate
members for their own home address. The details can be found in
a number of ways. Local libraries will have lists of all local
councillors, as well as details of local MPs and MSPs and their
surgeries. This information is also available online via websites
such as www.upmystreet.com.
Further information on the Regional MSPs within your area is available
Who is in power on your council?
The move to proportional representation in local government means
that councils are mostly run by coalitions or minority control.
It is important to know which party/ies are in power in your local
council, as you will be making a different approach to opposition
members than to those who are part of the ruling group. It is
also important to contact those who hold specific positions in
the ruling group to ensure that member from their ward/constituency
can contact the appropriate member with a targeted message. This
information will be available at your council’s website.
Power has already changed hands in a few councils because of
splits in coalitions or by-elections. Lobbying councillors over
cuts can therefore be even more effective than in the past.
MPs and MSPs - how have they voted?
There are also some online resources available to check how MPs
and MSPs have voted on certain issues. For MSPs you would have
to search the Scottish Parliament website but for MPs there is
Similar information is available is available in Hansard (House
of Commons) or in the Official Document (Scottish Parliament)
and should be available from main libraries.
Is your MSP in the Scottish Government?
The Scottish government website also indicates which MSPs hold
which position in government http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/14944/Scottish-Cabinet.
If they are your MSP then you can use your position as a constituent
to lobby them.
There are a number of ways to contact politicians, including telephone
calls, a visit to their surgeries or even by letter, fax or email.
Surgery and contact details are usually available from your local
library or local council website.
MSPs can be contacted via the Scottish Parliament website that
gives email and postal addresses as well as a contact phone number.
However there are some key points to remember:
- Identify yourself as a constituent
- Be polite and concise
- If writing, keep the letter brief but do enclose any relevant
- Ensure the information you provide is factually accurate
- Stick to one issue to avoid over burdening or confusing the
- Be clear about what you are asking them to do
- Request a reply
- Make sure you include your name, address and telephone number
in any correspondence
- Write in your own individual style, as personalised communications
have more impact than standardised responses than circulars.
Page updated: 5 February 2010
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