Pressure groups in Scotland

At elections the people decide which representatives they want to make decisions on their behalf. However, elections can be as much as four or five years apart so people must have other ways of influencing their representatives.

One way is through pressure groups. Pressure groups 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:

  1. Posting leaflets through doors or canvassing door to door.
  2. Taking part in demonstrations, marches or attending rallies.
  3. Organising petitions.
  4. Lobbying (speaking directly to) MSPs or councillors.
  5. Writing letters to politicians or to newspapers.
  6. Giving interviews which are reported in the media (radio, TV and newspapers) or taking part in publicity stunts to gain media attention.
To show tactics used by pressure groups to try to enforce change

Outsider and Insider groups

Outsider pressure groups are those whose aims do not have the support of the government. They tend to adopt media based, high profile campaigns to capture public attention.

A protester with a placard during a demonstration

For example, in recent years a range of pressure groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have organised protests in Scotland against the use of fracking as a way of getting gas from underground.

By contrast, 'insider groups' have the support and attention of government and officials who will often approach them for advice as well as having regular discussions.

One example of an insider group is the Confederation of British Industry (CBI Scotland). Insider groups will rarely organise demonstrations or marches. Instead they will rely on frequent meetings with the Scottish Government, often 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 to have a very strong focus on the Scottish Parliament as those policies in Scotland are now very different from the rest of the UK.