Viva la devolution!

When it comes to influencing government policy, UK-wide charities have tended to focus the majority of their resources on lobbying the powerful political institutions of Westminster.

When it comes to influencing government policy, UK-wide charities have tended to focus the majority of their resources on lobbying the powerful political institutions of Westminster.

However, with devolution continuing at breakneck speed across the country, charities that have started to build on their work in the devolved Assemblies and Parliament are already seeing results.

We know that Westminster has become an increasingly difficult place to get your voice heard. Intense pressure on MPs’ time, centralised decision-making and the sheer number of Members means that charities have their work cut out to make a meaningful impression on politicians based there.

In the devolved Assemblies and Parliament, however, the situation is much more favourable for charities. Charities were there at the formation of these institutions, and are therefore more engrained in the system than in Westminster.

It’s easier to find time for face-to-face meetings with MSPs, AMs and MLAs than MPs, and there are far fewer of them, meaning that it’s easier to form strong working relationships - and with smaller budgets than in Westminster, parties here tend to be more reliant on charities for research and policy support.

We know from our research that members of the devolved Parliament and Assemblies also tend to be more accepting of charity campaigning than MPs. 92% of AMs, 90% of MSPs and 95% of MLAs think it is acceptable for a charity to highlight the impact of a policy on its beneficiaries, whereas only 77% of MPs think the same.

All of this means that charities working across the UK can find the ear of very influential people more effectively by campaigning in the devolved nations – and many have used this to great effect already.

For example, British Heart Foundation successfully campaigned for an opt-out organ donation system in Wales, and in Holyrood charities such as WWF Scotland provide important support when ministers and MSPs need advice on climate policy.

There’s potential for good policy work in the devolved nations to have an impact on the whole of the UK, too. Consider the now-universal 5p charge on plastic carrier bags – the success of its 2011 implementation in Wales showed the rest of the UK that the policy could work nationwide.

For charities choosing to influence more at the devolved level, now is a great time to start tracking your engagement with members of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish legislatures. The recent elections mean that there are new members to be influenced, and new devolved powers mean that they have greater influence than ever.

Jonny Harper
 

nfpSynergy’s Celtic Charity Parliamentary Monitor is the effective and affordable way to regularly track how your organisation is viewed by representatives from the devolved Assemblies and Parliament.

For more information, price and methodology contact us via ccpm@nfpsynergy.net

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