Gimme Shelter


If you had told me as a fresh-faced graduate that twenty years later I would spend my working day crawling around in an acre of black rubber armed with an industrial leaf blower then I would have feared for what sinister turn my career had taken. Fortunately for my younger self (and those reading) the aforementioned items were the key components for a photo-stunt that we organised today in partnership with Shelter Scotland to encourage people in temporary, insecure or private rented accommodation to register to vote.

While the use of giant inflatable X’s and ballot boxes was a slightly quirky approach, the message was serious. The Commission’s own research on the 2014 electoral registers found that only 63% of people living in private rented accommodation were registered to vote. That figure is in sharp contrast to the 94% of people who owned their home outright who were registered to vote in 2014 and the 89% of those who owned their home with a mortgage.

The Commission’s Scotland team have been working in partnership with Shelter Scotland since 2011 and today’s photo stunt marked the launch of our fourth joint campaign to encourage registration ahead of a major poll. Working with Shelter helps us to target registration information more effectively using their existing networks and communication channels – which is the main reason for teaming up with them. But there has been an unexpected benefit to working in partnership with the Shelter comms team in that it pushes me out of my comfort zone, from the safety of tried and trusted straight press releases into the world of photo stunts which are more likely to catch the attention of the target audience than any number of articles in a broadsheet newspaper. They also rock up with a brilliant team of volunteers which injects loads of energy and enthusiasm into the event.

So are there any downsides to working in partnership on election stunts? Well it’s certainly harder work than just hitting send on a press release and you need to be able to rethink plans at short notice (like changing from an external to an internal location at 4.30pm the night before when you realise a storm is due to hit at the time your event is scheduled). Other than that the only downside is feeling a little ‘deflated’ when it’s all over!

Sarah Mackie
Senior Communications Officer

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