Pressure groups in Scotland

At elections, the people decide who they want to make decisions for them. However, elections are four or five years apart, so people need other ways of influencing their representatives.

One way is through pressure groups. These are organisations of people with similar opinions They do not want power for themselves, instead they want to influence those in power.

The way a pressure group works

Pressure groups use a number of different legal methods to put their views across:

  • Taking part in demonstrations or marches
  • Organising petitions
  • Lobbying (speaking directly to) MSPs
  • Writing letters to politicians or to newspapers
  • Giving interviews which are reported in the media or taking part in legal publicity stunts to gain media attention
To show tactics used by pressure groups to try to enforce change

Outsider and insider groups

Outsider groups are those who do not have direct influence in the government. This means that they have to use the media and high profile campaigns to get their attention.

A protester with a placard during a demonstration

For example, Save Whiteinch Library is a pressure group campaigning to keep a library in Glasgow open. They have organised protests at the library, started a petition and spoken to the media about their campaign, highlighting how important the library is to the local community.

On the other hand, insider groups are those that have the support and the attention of the government. They will often approach them for advice and have regular discussions about laws.

For example, the EIS union is a teacher pressure group. They will rarely organise demonstrations or marches. Instead, they usually rely on meetings with the Scottish Government. They tend to be behind the scenes and away from the cameras to influence decision making.

Developments such as Freedom of Information laws, the internet, social networking and a 24/7 media, mean pressure groups are aware of their power and are becoming increasingly professional in the way they work.

There are many groups in Scotland who aim to influence political decision making. For example, pressure groups covering education or health will have a very strong focus on the Scottish Parliament as these are dealt with as devolved matters in Scotland and are different to the rest of the UK.