A register of lobbying should be established according to a report issued today (6 February) by the Scottish Parliament’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.
The proposed register would make information about lobbying activity around decisions made by Parliament and Government more transparent and accessible to the public.
The proposed register would cover ‘significant’ lobbying activity. This is where organisations have sustained contact with politicians or where organisations spend significant money employing staff to seek to influence MSPs.
Committee Convener, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:
“Lobbying is a legitimate, valuable and necessary part of a healthy democracy. The more voices that feed into the Parliament and Government the more informed we are in our decision making and scrutiny. But a Parliament founded on openness must seek to make clear who is lobbying, on what issues, and why.
“We are aware of the valuable contributions made by all sectors in Scotland and no proposals are being made that could impact on this.”
The Scottish Government announced in June 2013 that it intended to legislate on the issue of lobbying and the Committee is recommending that the Government use its proposals as a basis for legislation.
Stewart Stevenson continued:
“Ever since it indicated it would legislate on lobbying, the Government has made clear the Parliament should have a central role in the policy development. The Committee is unanimous in recommending change, and its proposals have been consulted on to ensure they’re practical and not overly bureaucratic.
“The proposals are also a deliberate departure from the approach taken in UK lobbying legislation. The Scottish register would go beyond details of the lobbyists; it would detail the lobbying activity taking place. It would also cover in-house lobbyists as opposed to singling out consultant lobbyists. We want organisations to register based on what they do not who they are.”
In May 2013, Neil Findlay MSP lodged a final proposal for a member’s bill on the issue of lobbying. The Scottish Government’s announcement that it would introduce legislation on this topic meant that the member’s bill could no longer be introduced.
The Committee’s inquiry remit was to:
“examine whether there is a problem, either actual or perceived, with lobbying and, if so, how this can most effectively be addressed; to what extent a register of lobbyists would help with this process, who such a register should cover and how it would be operated in practice; and whether other steps might be needed to improve probity and transparency in this area.”
More information about the Committee’s inquiry can be found via the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee Committee’s webpages