Ahead of the Scottish Parliament’s summer recess from 1st July – 3rd September, Jennifer Scott, Public Affairs Account Manager in BIG’s Edinburgh office, lists her top pointers on how to make the summer a festival of engagement. 

This June has been the hottest on record, and that has been enough to put us all in the summer spirit. You could be forgiven for thinking that politicians are no different, and that they can’t wait until Parliament goes into recess for the summer, so they can join the rest of us in putting our feet up, cracking out the BBQ or venturing off to take in the sounds of one of the country’s many summer music festivals. 

With both the Scottish and UK Parliaments entering recess in the next few weeks, there is undoubtedly an opportunity for our elected members to catch their breath and take a well-earned break. 

But if you think you’ve missed the boat on engaging politicians on the issues that matter to you – think again! 

Just the other day, I spoke with a contact who suggested that the months ahead will be quieter in the political landscape, and that businesses should down tools on the public affairs front until parliamentary business resumes at the beginning of September.  

But this overlooks the fact that summer recess is one of the main opportunities that our elected representatives get to spend an extended amount of time in their local areas – and this is all the more important ahead of a General Election next year. 

Don’t take my word for it – I spoke to one MSP who said: 

“As an MSP, I am keen to engage with as many community organisations and businesses during recess. I’m keen to engage with work around the main issues in the area – poverty, business growth, and tourism.  

“My advice would be to be specific about any reason for a visit and any briefing on why I should visit, as this allows for preparation.” 

Another MSP told me:  

“For me, summer represents an opportunity to get out to every corner of my area to speak to people and hear about their concerns. 

“With two months away from Parliament, recess is also a perfect time for me to catch up with as many fantastic businesses, charities and other voluntary organisations as I can.” 

So, as the Scottish Parliament and Westminster prepare for their summer breaks, here are five ways that businesses can turn the summer into their own festival of engagement: 

  1. Invite your local MSP or MP to visit your business 

Politicians are more likely to be in their constituency at this time and will want to maximise opportunities to get out and about in their local area, including visiting local businesses. When Parliament is sitting, time is tight, and it can often be difficult to get a good amount of time in the diary with an MP or MSP. But summer recess is an ideal time to bring your MP or MSP to you, familiarise them with your business, and discuss the issues that matter to you.  

  1. Get creative to help MSPs and MPs understand the impact of your business 

When it comes to visits, the more creative and engaging you can be will better help MSPs and MPs understand the impact of your business. For example, if you are a hospitality business, why not invite your local MSP to do a shift in your venue? Or if you’re a housing association, why not invite your local MSP to meet local residents or tour a new development? Whatever it is you choose to do, the key is to help MSPs and MPs understand your impact by showing them your business in action – bonus points if you can make it a good photo opp! 

  1. Get a head-start on planning your Party Conference engagement 

The world of politics and public affairs can often feel relentless, and many of us breathe a sigh of relief at the break the summer recess gives us. But the breathing space of summer is a great opportunity to get ahead of planning for later in the year, particularly for Party Conferences. Most of this year’s Conferences take place in October and will be a key opportunity to influence parties ahead of the General Election. Whether you are hosting a fringe event, or setting up 1-2-1s, planning your Party Conference engagement is a lot of work and the summer break offers you an opportunity to get a head-start. 

  1. Time for cross-party working 

The summer period makes it easier to get cross-party elected representatives together to discuss big issues that will affect all their constituents. At BIG, we advise a number of public bodies who find this kind of cross-party engagement and briefings both efficient and effective. You’ll need a clear idea of what you’d like to discuss and why, and it would be wise to do some research into which MSPs and MPs would have a particular interest in the topic you’re looking to discuss.  

  1. Use this time to demonstrate how you are delivering for their constituents 

Surgeries will be held by MSPs and MPs, likely at every town and village on their local patch, and will be used to discuss pressing issues in the area like housing availability, public transport, business growth and many other issues which play on the minds of voters. For example, last year, Labour MSP Paul O’Kane held a street surgery to meet and talk to the people he represents and many other MSPs do something similar. If you are a business which is ‘consumer-facing’, and particularly if you are involved in delivering services around those common issues of interest to constituents – from housing to public transport – then summer is a good opportunity to be actively engaging MSPs on the issues of concern to their constituents, and demonstrate how you are delivering on their priorities.   

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