Digital revolution can help MSPs serve their constituents better than before – Angus Robertson MSP

The digital revolution is changing everyones lives. Almost all of us are accessing information, public, private and retail services online.

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 4:55 am
Edinburgh Central residents can use the digital surgery booking system to pick a convenient time (Picture: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Anyone who has a public-facing profile has to move with the times, including parliamentarians who are there to help their constituents.

That’s why this week I have launched my new website which is the first of any MSP to have two new features that will help constituents connect with me and my office.

Since being elected, my team and I have been discussing ways we can be available to and keep our fingers on the pulse of all things happening in Edinburgh Central. As well as being out and about in the community, a parliamentarian’s digital presence is increasingly important due to the pandemic changing the way we interact.

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Being on social media is a given for any modern politician, but the 24/7 nature of maintaining social media profiles means MSP’s websites are often left by the wayside.

When done well, however, websites can still be an effective tool for an MSP and their constituents. Our sites can be a place where local communities come to see the latest news relevant to their area, what their MSP has been doing for them, and to get in touch.

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Previously, and still, most often, constituents have to gather contact details and email or call to request a meeting. Then a member of the parliamentary office needs to get back to them to arrange an appropriate time. This is fairly time-consuming for a simple task.

So how do you simplify this for a modern website? Well, it probably won’t surprise you to know MSPs do not get training in web design or coding, so we have been working with professionals to work out how.

Our digital surgery booking system allows constituents to access the calendar of my surgeries and pick a time convenient to them. When selected and details entered, an automatically generated Zoom link is sent and the meeting set up. My team can also monitor bookings to ensure we tackle urgent issues straight away.

The second cool feature of my website is the live survey page. When working out how we can gather the views of as many constituents as possible on particular issues, we thought the best way would be through surveying. When tackling the big issues of interest to many constituents, we can be backed up by evidence of our surveys and be better able to vocalise the views of the whole constituency, or groups within.

In the first instance, and in recognition of the strength of feeling on the issue, we are running a survey to better capture the views of Edinburgh Central residents on plans by the City of Edinburgh Council to introduce bin hubs in areas currently using gull bags. Constituents, local groups and communities can also get in touch to recommend issues on which we can work with them to gather views via a survey.

These features will help me be the best MSP I can be for the constituency. Please visit www.angusrobertson.scot to explore. I look forward to hearing from you whether it be through these new website features or, indeed, via traditional methods – be it phone, email or letter.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary

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