Oxfam Scotland Candidate Cafes

Four weeks, eight regions, almost 200 people, nearly 40 candidates

Over the last four weeks, the Oxfam Scotland team has travelled across Scotland to give members of the public the chance to speak directly with candidates standing in the Scottish Parliament elections. Our Candidate Cafes, which were held in partnership with Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS), took place in Inverness, Motherwell, Dumfries, Edinburgh, Irvine, Glasgow, Dundee and Stirling. They featured candidates from the five parties currently represented at the Scottish Parliament.

Crucially, the Cafes adopted a different approach from the more traditional political hustings. Instead of the usual political back and forth, people met in small groups with each candidate in turn. This more informal setting meant they were able to have their questions answered directly and across the eight events, almost 200 people of all ages and backgrounds made their voice heard.

Official surveys show that just 23% of people in Scotland feel they can influence decisions affecting their local area – that’s why we travelled to all eight regions of Scotland to ensure these events were about connecting people with candidates in their region.

All of the participants and candidates who took part told us they thought the format was very successful. Candidates said they were more able to listen as well as talk, and that it was great to meet with people on their own, rather than having to compete with their rivals to get their message across. Here is just some of the great feedback we’ve received from people who took part:

  • “I came away feeling that my voice had been listened to.”
  • “I got to meet and engage with people who had different views: it was interesting to listen to their questions and of course the candidate responses.”
  • “The format was very conducive to a wide range of topics and real conversations instead of ‘sound bites’.”
  • “Everyone was participating and felt their question was answered because you could go into more depth rather than effectively competing and scoring points.”

For Oxfam, it was great to hear significant concern, and a real desire for action, across the nine policy priorities we have outlined for the Scottish Parliament – including poverty, inequality and climate change. In October 2015, we released our paper ‘Even It Up: Scotland’s role in tackling poverty by reducing inequality at
home and abroad’

Candidate Cafe, Glasgow - March 15, 2016

(Image: Candidate Cafe, Glasgow – March 15, 2016. Photo Credit: Monique Campbell)

But, of course, a whole range of other issues were raised too – from disability cuts to fracking, from Trident to taxation, and from decent work to the refugee crisis. Everyone had their own ideas for what a more equal Scotland in a more equal world looks like and how to deliver it. We hope they learned as much as our team did from being part of these events, and – crucially – stay engaged.

In the words of one participant: “Oxfam created a great format and brought everyone to the same level – that’s equality in action!”