Organisations across the third sector invest significantly in developing solutions to the challenges that face people and communities in Scotland. Highlighting these policy solutions to political parties is central to making many of these ideas a reality and improving the lives of the communities that organisations across the sector work for and with. So how can the sector most effectively engage with Scotland’s political parties to progress their policy proposals? Over the last year SCVO have asked the experts through a series of, ‘Meet the Researcher’, events for members of SCVO’s Policy Officers Network https://scvo.org.uk/services/professional-networks. This quarter the network met with researchers from the Scottish Green Party.
Like all of the other parties we have met with to date, the Scottish Green Party have a central research team with a national focus. This team, led Vhairi Tollan, covers issues including climate change, health, social security, and the economy. Each of the six Scottish Green Party MSPs then have a researcher who is focused on both their portfolio area and their local area.
So how can colleagues across the sector engage with the researchers to promote their policy priorities?
The Scottish Greens shared that they are interested in hearing about the topics that the third sector are working on. The party get two or three member’s business slots each year and have a keen interest in utilising these to raise topics that have not yet featured on the parliamentary agenda. Similarly, MSPs on Committees are interested in raising questions that Ministers may not expect.
MSPs are also interested in meeting both local and national third sector organisations, particularly those working in their area, research from the sector, and engaging with the press releases from the sector- ideally with some advanced notice. Local case studies, statistics and key facts about their local area are also in demand.
In addition, researchers shared that some of the Scottish Green Party’s current priorities include:
- Additional support needs (Ross Greer MSP)
- Income maximisation (Alison Johnstone MSP)
- The Transport Bill, with a focus on transport use and health.
- Animal welfare, including foxhunting
- Empowering local authorities and local taxation
- Climate Change Bill
As with all small parties, the research team are also often focused on the business bulletin week-to-week and welcome briefings on these issues. When the researchers prepare briefings they also reflect on SPICE briefings, briefings sent to MSPs, and amendments from other parties.
Like researchers from the other parties, Scottish Green Party researchers suggested that their key asks for briefings from the sector would include:
- 2 sides of A4
- A summary box
- PDFs- no links to Dropbox please!
- Case studies, particularly local case studies
- Historical context, for example, if the issue was raised in the previous sitting of the parliament
- The debate briefing in the title of the email
- Clear branding
The 2021 manifesto
The Scottish Green Party, rather than the parliamentary researchers, produce the Scottish Green Party manifesto. Rather than a dedicated researcher, the party have a Policy Committee ran by members on a voluntary basis. The Policy Committee get information in through the branches and are informed by the annual policy issues raised during the autumn Scottish Green Party Conference. Fringe events at conferences are an opportunity for organisations to share their views and potentially, influence the manifesto.
To reach the Policy Committee contact Vhairi Tollan at the central research team. To influence the manifesto make contact a year in advance, the summer 2020 recess is a particularly effective time.
The researchers suggested that cross-party groups can be an effective route through which to engage and encourage cross-party working. Positive outcomes include; collective letters, open letters, Charters, and calls from MSPs. Press releases based on these outcomes can be a useful tool to the raise the profile of the issue.
To suggest an issue to a cross-party group, contact the Convener. To avoid a frustrating experience, ensure any activities you participate in with cross-party groups include a clear ask rather than solely providing information.
- Contact the researchers to encourage MSPs along to cross-party groups, parliamentary receptions, and other events.
- Copy party researchers into emails to MSPs
- Utilise SPiCE briefings
- Contact Committee clerks for information on Committee planning days. Ahead of the planning days make suggestions to the clerk and Committee members for their work plan.
Thanks to the Scottish Green Party researchers for sharing these tips and members of the Policy Officers Network for their questions.