Guest Post – Running mates: malaise, apathy and destiny in the voting Olympics

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The biggest games Scotland will witness in a generation are drawing ever-closer, 2014 is just round the corner.

After the Summer, attention will turn from London 2012 to 2014 – to the Commonwealth Games and, in all likelihood it seems, in that same year the referendum on Scottish independence. Infact the political games around that have already begun.

Picture from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

The curtain has drawn on the May 2012 local elections and the crowds are now heading toward the main event. In the weeks running up to the local elections, you’d be forgiven if that’s the conclusion you had drawn.

As MSPs came out to talk up policy in a show of support for local candidates, the noise on independence and the union respectively grew ever louder. The result was that one debate drew most focus, certainly more than those issues which most affect people here and now.

Of course any strategist would be delighted to be presented with such opportunity. Local elections after all are often used by voters and commentators alike, in different ways, to pass judgement on national performance.

However, with malaise and apathy toward voting resistant at best – and that’s a UK-wide phenomenon, its time for a new strategy. People from all population groups benefit from the democratic process being as relevant as possible. Never has this need been more paramount.

Humanity, Equality, Destiny

It is not lost on me that the Commonwealth Games motto is “Humanity, Equality, Destiny” – which in part also coincidentally summarises what the real debates are that the media could have reported on more often: such as what is being done locally to address inequalities in health and the social determinants of health. Where are all the stories being told on the innovative work going on across the country?

Only through challenging, for example, Scotland’s relationship with alcohol, tackling our carbon footprint, exploring housing provision, offering children the best start in life, seeking solutions to how we care for our elderly and infirm, attracting new and supporting existing business, and creating jobs, do we start to get to the heart of people’s real concerns.

Currently I participate in the CIPR Continuing Professional Development Scheme. As a communications professional for over 10 years now, I have continued to learn about, test out and evaluate how best to understand and communicate with those we seek to engage. How the electorate are encouraged to cast their vote should be no different.

Through Political collaboration at the right time, driven by and interspersed with healthy competition, the potential exists to challenge malaise and apathy toward voting. Imagine the appeal to young people to be using new technologies to actually vote? This, supported through digital and especially social media, opens up interactive options to, not just vote, but engage and discuss issues and concerns. While some good work will already be going on, it feels very much like we are in the shop trying them out for size. Where we need to get to is out onto the field, pushing the limits.

Destiny is calling. What that destiny looks like is in our hands. And as you know, power alone doesn’t always guarantee success. Skill and strategy is a vital factor, and that’s where we come in.

Are you ready? On your marks, get set…

Kenny McDonald is an NHSScotland Communications Manager and a CIPR Accredited Practitioner. Working from Edinburgh and living in Dundee, he is also an avid Dundee United fan.

This guest blog post expresses Kenny’s personal thoughts and, therefore, may not reflect the views of the CIPR, CIPR Scotland committee nor those of NHS Scotland..

You can follow Kenny through Twitter @MarCommsKenny and his new blog, Blether And Blogger.

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