Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Understanding Parliament conference

Last Saturday (21st), over 100 people from small, local community groups around Scotland came together for the 1st ever "Understanding and Influencing Your Parliament" conference. For nearly everyone who came along, this was their first experience of engaging with the Parliament.

The petitions process was at the heart of what we had to share with them. We started the day in the Chamber with five speakers giving short presentations about the Parliament, the Scottish Government and what it is like to be an MSP - especially how constituents can help Members to do their jobs. As the Presiding Officer emphasized, the day was all about "people power". We wanted to show our delegates how they are at the heart of Scotland's political processes, and how they can use them to get their voices heard on their issues. One delegate coined the phrase "a citizens' democracy", which sparked lively debate from our panel. Here you can see petitioner Tina McGeever talking with some of the delegates.

We were delighted to welcome Michelle Stewart, one of our petitioners, to speak in the Chamber. Michelle's input - from the heart and without any notes - clearly showed why she was named as Campaigner of the Year earlier in the week.
Networking in the Garden Lobby had started first thing over coffee and continued over the lunch break. Delegates had a chance to go on a quick tour of Holyrood and to get their pictures taken for use in their local papers, newsletters and websites.

In the afternoon, it was back to the hard work with two workshops.
Fergus and Frank McAveety led sessions on petitions, sharing their knowledge and experience. As delegates departed at the end of the day, many of them mentioned that they were away to think about or even draft a petition so they must have captured everyone's imagination!
Michelle stayed on and we were joined by Tina McGeevor as well - they both contributed to sessions about how to run a campaign. Feedback has been very positive with comments about how much people learnt on the day and how pleased they were to experience their "open and accessible Parliament" in action. This event really showed how the Committee and the Education and Community Partnerships team can work together, with other Members and colleagues of course, to promote the work of the Parliament and how people can get involved, as flagged in the Committee's recent inquiry report. I suspect we'll be called on to run the conference again, judging by its success. Well, at least it keeps Fergus and Frank out of the CD shops on a Saturday afternoon.
Rosemary Everett, Head of Education and Community Partnership Team

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Rosemary. Will now have to spend double at next visit to that record shop I go to in Rose Street!