On September 20th RSPB Scotland will be supporting the UK Student Climate Network alongside many other groups and individuals across the globe for the Global Climate Strike. In the lead up we will be posting some blogs about different ways you can get involved in campaigning. In this blog, RSPB Scotland’s Parliamentary Officer Nora Casey explains how to contact and work with your MSP when campaigning for nature and climate change.
Getting in touch with your MSPs to help nature and the climate
Here are some tips for making your contact with Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) as successful as possible:
Find your MSPs
You can find out who your MSPs are using the MSP finder tool. Each resident of Scotland has one constituency MSP and seven regional list MSPs.
How can your MSP help?
The Scottish Parliament can pass laws on the environment and climate and scrutinise the work of the Scottish Government. MSPs can ask the Scottish Government questions about policy, write to the relevant Government Minister, speak in Parliamentary debates and committee meetings, call a debate and support or amend new legislation. They can also ask other public bodies to look into an issue, raise the profile of an issue in the media and attend events in their constituency (if you give them enough notice).
Some MSPs are also Government Ministers, Committee Conveners, or party spokespeople – these MSPs may be able to raise an issue in different ways. Ministers are unlikely to campaign publicly on issues, but they are often helpful in raising issues with colleagues behind the scenes.
Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
How to get in touch
The two main ways of getting in touch with an MSP are in writing (by email or letter) or in person, mainly by attending a local constituency surgery. You can also contact your MSP using social media or by phone. All MSPs can be contacted through the Scottish Parliament, EH99 1SP.
Details of constituency surgeries are usually advertised locally and on the MSP’s website. Regional MSPs may have less frequent surgeries than constituency MSPs, but they should still be willing to meet you if you get in touch. If English is not your first language, all MSPs can arrange to have an interpreter for written communication and meetings.
Be personal and concise
Whether you’re writing to your MSP or meeting with them in person, identify yourself as a constituent. If you’re writing to several MSPs, write to them individually and address each by name. Raise the issue briefly and explain why it’s important to you – is there some aspect of nature locally that you have a personal connection with, or how will your life or your children’s lives be affected by climate change? What are you asking the MSP to do to help? You can include links to expert advice in an email or bring a few leaflets to a surgery, so you don’t have to know all the facts and figures off by heart.
MSPs and their staff are busy, so short correspondence or 5-10 minute meetings are more likely to get their attention than longer briefings – they can always ask for more information. Always be polite and criticise policies and actions, not people, if you’re not happy with something.
What to expect from contacting your MSP
MSPs have staff to help them respond to constituents, and you should get a response, even during parliamentary recess. Personal contact is more likely to get an individual response than a letter copied from a website, but all contact with MSPs adds to their picture of what’s important to their constituents. Don’t be disheartened if you are contacted by staff rather than the MSP – staff work closely with MSPs on issues.
If you think the response doesn’t go far enough, you can contact your MSP again and ask for more information or explain why you think more needs to be done for nature. Make sure to be polite and be specific about what your issue or concern is.
Involving the next generation
If your children are involved in the climate and nature strikes, or are passionate about nature, you can help them to write to your MSPs or bring them with you to a constituency surgery or local event. Voting in Scottish Parliament elections starts at 16, so MSPs need to listen to young people.
Although this blog focuses on talking to MSPs, MPs and councillors also have roles in saving nature and tackling the climate emergency, although their powers are different – MPs have a role in international agreements and energy policy, while councillors have responsibility for local planning, parks and waste, and recycling. You can contact your MP or your councillors in a similar way as your MSPs.
I hope some of these tips encourage you to think about how you might contact your local representatives to encourage them to protect Scotland’s nature and the planet!
For some more practical tips on talking to decision makers, you can check out our campaigning guide here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/campaigning/meeting-your-mp/.
If you’re eligible to vote in the UK and haven’t registered, you can register at https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.
You can find out more about the climate strike here
Read our other campaigning blogs:
Campaigning on social media
Campaigning with craftivism
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