Lobbying Act Criticised as 'Poor Effort' Comes Into Effect At Holyrood

The long awaited new Lobbying (Scotland) Act of 2016 goes into effect this week, designed to increase transparency around the lobbying of MSPs, Government ministers, and Special Advisors. 

A new Lobbying Register allows members of the public to see when politicians have been meeting with lobbyists, who will now need to disclose when they have met with organisations and individuals engaged in lobbying, and what topics were discussed whether it is face to face or in video conference. 

The provisions of the Act covers:

  • The date that the lobbying activity took place
  • The name and role of the person lobbied (whether they are a civil servant, Minister, MSP, Scottish Law Officer, or Special Adviser)
  • The location where the person was lobbied
  • A description of the event, meeting, or other circumstances of the face to face encounter
  • Whether the interaction was face to face or by video conference
  • The name of the individual who carried out the communication and whether it was on their own behalf or the name of the person it was undertaken for
  • The purpose of the lobbying

The Clerk of the Scottish Parliament also has responsibility for monitoring the implementation of the act, as well as new powers to issued ‘Information notices’ if they believe that lobbying has been taking place in contravention of the Act. 

As the Act only covers face to face meetings that politicians have had with Lobbyists, with phone calls and written communication being beyond the scope of the Act. This has ranged questions about how politicians and lobbyists will still be able to get around the scope of the Act. 

A wider ranging piece of legislation was brought forward by Neil Findlay MSP in 2012, who said this in regards to the new legislation:

“The government’s lobbying register is a very poor effort. It does little to enhance the principles of openness, transparency, and accountability that the Parliament was supposedly founded upon. 

The register only covers verbal face to face lobbying. It is stuck in the 1900s, ignoring the fact that we now have email, Skype, facetime and mobile phones. So a conversation is lobbying, but an email or phone call is not. The register will be easily avoided.”

Photo by Colin

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