Engaging with your local politicians
Target policymakers who are making decisions that will affect the future of the built environment in your local area.
Once you’ve researched who your Councillors, MSPs, MPs are, you can choose which form of contact is the most appropriate for you and your organisation:
- Follow them on social media
- Write to them
- Attend a surgery
- Invite them to an event you are organising
In total you will be represented by around 12 politicians and councillors. If you don’t have time to contact them all, start with one or two and see what kind of responses you get. When deciding who to contact have a look at their online presence to find out who might be interested in your work.
Politicians have many demands on their time and attention, remember to always be courteous and friendly.
Social media engagement
Following or messaging your local politicians on social media is a relatively simple way of engaging with them in a more informal way and making them aware of your work. A simple google search of their name will usually point you to their Twitter and Facebook pages.
Write to them or attend a surgery
Contact details and surgery times are all available online. For councillors, a google search of their name should take you to the relevant page. For MSPs you can find contact details and links to individual websites through the biography pages on the Scottish Parliament’s website and for MPs from the biography pages on the UK Parliament website.
When writing to or meeting politicians, the first step is to focus on the reason why you are approaching them: it could be to inform them about your organisation, to highlight the way the organisation works with the local community. It could also be to focus on a particular cause or issue. Have a positive message, be proactive and prepared. Prioritise what you would like them to know and think of including the following information:
- Describe in two-three sentences what the organisation does and what its mission and aims are
- How many people the organisation employs / how many volunteers
- How many people it supports through its activities. Who are those stakeholders?
- How many people engage with the organisation through its activities / projects
- Where does the financial support for the organisation come from? What percentage comes from each source? You should also be able to provide the percentage that comes from funding and commercial activities.
- Explain the impact your work has and how the historic environment as a whole has an impact in Scotland – use the Key Messages and Advocacy Facts & Figures to make your case
- Politicians are mainly concerned with their constituents, so offer a positive message, highlighting the impact of the historic environment on people and communities
- Perhaps you have some success stories, examples of your activities you could share with them – for this section, it is worth researching your Councillors’ or MSPs’ particular interests, to give them examples that would strongly resonate with them.
- Ask them their views on the value of the historic environment and how they can help support it in Scotland
- Using Historic Environment Scotland’s map search tell them how many Conservation Areas, Scheduled Monuments, Listed Buildings and Designed Landscapes there are in their ward or constituency
Invite a local politician to your event
A forthcoming event is a good opportunity to engage with your national and local government representatives. Research what their interests are to see how well your event and your organisation’s activities fit with what they support – make sure that you try to tie into those interests as that will make your event essential for them to attend. Let them know if there are likely to be media and photo call opportunities at the event, which will raise both your and their profile.
Even if they aren’t able to attend the first time you invite them, making them aware of what is happening in their area is an important part of highlighting the impact that the historic environment has.
Don’t underestimate the importance of planning ahead – even if your event is extremely relevant, your Councillor, MSP, MP will need to fit it into their diaries. Try to give them as much notice as possible. A guideline notice period is that of a minimum of one month, and keep in touch as the event approaches in case they have last minute schedule changes.
Don’t forget to write to them afterwards to thank them for their attendance and support.
When inviting UK Parliament MPs, it is better to contact them via their constituency office rather than Westminster. By doing so, you are more likely to speak to an assistant who will be able to help straight away.
Once you’ve made contact with politicians, you can share your experience with BEFS and your networks and see what others are doing.