22 October 2015

The Scottish Government is proposing to register lobbyists who engage with Minsters and Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). The Committee on Parliament’s Standards held an inquiry into lobbying and this week published the findings from its public consultation.

Although there was some momentum when the Greens promoted a Lobbying Disclosure Bill in 2011,  New Zealand remains among the minority of developed economies where there is no pressure to implement the OECD Principles on Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying.

The Scots look likely to legislate.  Although there were fewer than 70 submissions, an analysis of the consultation in July and August indicates that most agreed that registering lobbyists would

  • avoid eroding the openness, ease of access, and accountability of Parliament, while being proportionate and simple;
  • promote transparency, public trust and understanding of lobbying – although many were not sure there was evidence of a problem;
  • be encouraged if there was no fee for individual lobbyists – but that responsibility for registering should rest with organisations not individuals.
The majority thought that for fairness, both consultants and in-house lobbyists should be required to register – and no type of in-house lobbyists should be exempt from registration. However there was less certainty about whether unpaid lobbyist should have to register.

Although Ministers and MSPs should be covered, unlike the UK provision where only Ministers are covered, some thought coverage should also extend to Ministerial staff and civil servants and not exclude minor and infrequent lobbying. Most proposed restricting regulated conduct to face to face meetings.

Lobbyists should disclose their employer and the organisation for whom they were lobbying, the nature of the lobbying and how the lobbying was being funded, with a code of lobbying practice. There was uncertainty about who was best to maintain the register and the enforcement processes needed to ensure compliance.