Step 4: Deciding your goal - which sphere of government?

Once you've gained a better understanding of what your motivation is to stand and which party (if any) you want to stand with, the next step is figuring out which sphere of government you want to run for. If you’ll recall Step 2, there are many different options for this in Scotland and England, whether you want to stand at your most local level right up to European Parliament.


“Maybe the first time you don’t win; that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run again. It just means that that’s sort of your practice. What does success look like?” - Tabitha Morton, former candidate, Mayor of Liverpool

“Maybe the first time you don’t win; that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run again. It just means that that’s sort of your practice. What does success look like?” - Tabitha Morton, former candidate, Mayor of Liverpool

Again, this decision is a personal one - but it’s worth putting some thought into which level of government makes the most sense for you. Some women prefer to start at the local level and gain experience there before running for Scottish Parliament or Westminster, while others might get elected as an MSP or MP on their first try. Here are a few things to consider when figuring out which sphere of government you want to stand for:

  • Issues. What issues are you most passionate about - and which sphere of government will put you in the best position to work on these topics? For instance, if you’re striving to improve housing in your area, local councils might be perfect for you - issues like humanitarian aid, military and defence, or healthcare might lead you to pursue a different sphere.

  • Election cycles. Elections happen at different times and at different intervals at the various spheres of government. Some of your decision might simply come down to timing - if you’re ready to stand immediately and don’t want to wait (or, conversely, if you think you need more time!) you might choose where to focus your efforts based on this.

  • Time. Are you looking to be a full-time politician - or are you hoping to balance your political endeavours with an existing career or responsibilities? In theory (not always in practice!) local-level politics are more of a part-time role - it’s less likely you’ll be able to balance other paid employment as an MSP, MP, or MEP (although some do!).

  • Geography. Depending on where you’re located, different spheres of government might mean vastly different amounts of travel - travel time for an Edinburgh MSP or a London MP are likely to be much less than for someone in the Western Isles or in Northern England. Don’t let this deter you - but it’s worth thinking seriously about how much time you’re willing to commit to travelling and being away from home.

  • Party politics. Perhaps your party already has candidates in mind at one level but is really in need of someone at another. Or maybe the party you’re hoping to stand for tends to do better in one sphere in your area than another. Whatever the case, have a think about the implications of running within your specific party at whichever sphere you’re hoping to stand for.

 
Illustration of three women speaking into microphones, as though partaking in a panel discussion.

Illustration of three women speaking into microphones, as though partaking in a panel discussion.

 

These are just a few questions to hopefully guide you in your decision-making process. Below, we’ve shared a few more videos from COSLA and from our webinars where more women share their political journeys.


You've decided on your goal - now it's time to pursue it. Next is Step #5: Finding your voice - offline & online.