Our week in the Scottish Parliament

A man in shirt and trousers with a name tag round his neck and holding a clipboard. He is at an exhibition stand with Cycling UK branded posters and table
Jim Densham works the Cycling UK exhibition stand at the Scottish Parliament
We recently asked members and supporters in Scotland to contact their MSPs and ask them to visit Cycling UK’s exhibition stand in the Scottish Parliament. Policy manager Jim Densham reveals what happened and who we met during our week in the corridors of power

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

The old saying is true when it comes to influencing political decisionmakers and achieving policy change. A perfect, well-evidenced proposal or idea is effectively worthless if you don’t have the ear of a politician who can help affect the change you want to see.

That’s why at Cycling UK political lobbying and advocacy is hugely important. It’s all about being known in parliament and developing relationships with politicians who will speak up and champion the cause of cycling.

Focusing on the benefits of cycling

In March 2024, Cycling UK had a stand in the Scottish Parliament for the three days that MSPs sit at Holyrood and attended debates and committee meetings – Tuesday to Thursday.

Our stand in the dedicated exhibition space was like a stall you might see at a trade fair or the Cycle Show. In this case ours was the only one in parliament’s Garden Lobby.

In recent years and especially since the election in 2021, we’ve developed positive relationships with a small selection of MSPs from a variety of parties but haven’t become an established name in the minds of most politicians.

So, with no legislation currently going through parliament affecting cycling or sustainable transport we decided to focus on meeting as many MSPs as possible and telling them who we are, what we do, and explaining the benefits of cycling for people’s personal lives and for society.

A woman wearing a patterned jacket, blue trousers and pale blue scarf is posing next to a Cycling UK poster
Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop visited the stand

There are 129 MSPs at Holyrood, and over the three days we spoke to 47 of them (some more than once), plus a good number of parliamentary staff.

A big thank you to all of you who used our online action to ask your MSPs to come and speak to us during the week. A good number of them mentioned that your emails had persuaded them to visit our stand.

We met MSPs from all the main political parties, Cabinet Secretary for Transport Fiona Hyslop, two other ministers, transport spokespersons for each party, and the leaders of the Scottish Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

All the MSPs we spoke to were interested in hearing about the benefits of cycling and had their own stories to tell, concerns about cycling policy or project delivery, or wanted to discuss an issue affecting their constituents.

It was great to have so many positive conversations and see the willingness by MSPs to have their picture taken with our pledge board which read ‘I support more investment in cycling and walking’.

A huge thanks to all the MSPs who took time out of their busy week to stop by our stand and have a chat.

MSPs hear about the benefits of e-bikes

Our week in parliament coincided nicely with a Cross Party Group (CPG) meeting, held in one of Holyrood’s committee rooms, to discuss and investigate the future of e-micromobility in Scotland.

A group of people are sitting around a big table in a conference room. They all have laptops and tablets
Cycling UK’s Jenny Box (second right) delivered an inspiring presentation on the benefits of e-bikes

Cycling UK is a member of the CPG on Sustainable Transport. At the end of last year I proposed e-micromobility as a topic for discussion at a future meeting.

We worked with CPG convener Graham Simpson MSP’s staff to formulate what was a very informative discussion. It focused mainly on the use and benefits of e-bikes and e-cargo bikes – timely because of a current consultation on e-bikes from the Department of Transport in Westminster.

The first speaker was Jenny Box, Cycling UK’s deputy director of behaviour change. She gave an inspiring presentation about the benefits of e-bikes and the how our Making cycling e-asier and Rural Connections projects have enabled people to try out e-bikes and transformed lives.

Mr Simpson and the other MSPs in attendance fully engaged in the discussion. They are keen to investigate the topic in more detail and use their influence to help address the challenges raised at the CPG event and ensure the use of e-bikes and other micro-electric vehicles is able to grow and flourish in the right way in Scotland.

After three days in parliament, I must admit I was a bit frazzled on Friday, but still on a high from a successful week. I now have the task of making a record of all our interactions and conversations and planning how to follow up with the MSPs we met.

Many thanks to colleagues who came to Holyrood to talk to MSPs about their work, and those who helped organise display banners and leaflets – a real team effort.