Guide to: Engaging with your Councillors, MSPs and MPs

Performance, visual arts, music, dance, literature and much more – culture has many positive impacts on our health and wellbeing, as well as being an important part of our economy.

Culture Counts is the campaign to highlight the value of culture in Scotland by providing information, evidence and resources to enable anyone who wants to promote the value of culture to become an advocate.

The team have created a toolkit to help you have discussions with local politicians and councillors about your experiences of why culture is important to you and talk about the impact culture has more widely.

The toolkit offers tips and ideas on how to make the case for culture as a whole as well as raising the profile of your own work and experiences. It provides practical information and evidence to use in spreading the message about the impact of culture.

The Culture Counts toolkit can be downloaded section by section by  clicking here and will:

•   Help you find your local MSPs, MPs and Councillors and how to contact them

•   Give tips on arranging meetings with politicians and inviting them to see your work

•   Give you key evidence and data on the impact of culture

•   Provide tips on how to share your experiences and examples of what others are doing

•   Give ideas about engaging with your local community

Tips on lobbying politicians and getting involved in the election in May 2016 will be added to the toolkit soon.

We think that engaging with your Councillors, MSPs and MPs can be a good way to do raise your profile and make the case for culture, and the toolkit has useful advice on how to do this – please find couple of short extracts below and follow the links to read more.

Culture Counts Toolkit – Engaging with your Councillors, MSPs and MPs:

Once you’ve researched who your MSPs, MPs and Councillors 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 and/or invite them to an event you are organising.

You can find MSP Twitter accounts by visiting the biography pages on the Scottish Parliament’s website. Culture Counts also has an MSP Twitter list. Twitter accounts for MPs are available from the biography pages on the UK Parliament website.

Contact details and surgery times are all available online. For Councillors, you can google search their name to 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 use from the biography pages on the UK Parliament website.

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When writing to or meeting politicians, the first step is to focus on the reason why you are approaching them: it can be to inform them about your organisation, to highlight the way the organisation works with the local community / artists / youth etc. It could also be to focus on a particular cause or issue.  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 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.

–    Perhaps you have some success stories, examples of your activities you could share with them – for this section, it is worth researching what your MSP’s or Councillor’s particular interests are to try to give them examples that would strongly resonate with them.

–    Explain the impact your work has and how culture as a whole has an impact in Scotland – use the Key Facts About Culture to make your case

–    Ask them their views on the value of culture and how they can help support culture in Scotland

Invite MSPs / MPs / Councillors to an event you organise:

An upcoming event is another good way of engaging with 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 culture has.

Culture Counts:

Culture Counts was started in 2011 and is supported by major cultural organisations and institutions in Scotland. The campaign directly lobbies politicians as well as encouraging others to become advocates for culture and increase the level of conversations about why culture is important to Scotland.

Culture Counts toolkit – the toolkit is available in online at www.culturecounts.scot/toolkit and @culturecounts.

Below is some top tips from MPs, MSPs and Councillors.  Please note: an equal number of councillors from each of the main parties were contacted.