We’re welcoming a victory today in our campaign to make lobbying in Scotland more transparent. Yesterday we received a letter from the Scottish Minister for Parliamentary Business, Joe Fitzpatrick, stating that the Scottish Government will now amend the Lobbying (Scotland) Bill in line with our recommendations - ensuring the most important lobbying organisations will be covered by the Bill.
We and our partners in the Scottish Alliance for Lobbying Transparency feared that a previous amendment to the Bill, which would have meant only organisations with 10 staff members or more would have to register, would have created a new loophole. Advocacy and trade bodies – including organisations as influential as the lead body for the pharmaceutical industry (ABPI Scotland) - would not have to make public their lobbying activity.
In the letter, sent on the 9th March, Mr Fitzpatrick wrote:
“The Government considers that amendment 22 [limiting the Bill’s scope to organisations with 10 or more employees] would not itself have the effect of exempting representative bodies from having to register.
However, in light of the concerns I have decided to bring forward a further Government amendment to put that matter beyond doubt.
I hope this position will offer reassurance to you and all those who have represented your views to me and to other Members of the Scottish Parliament.”
We wouldn’t have been able to do this without your help. Thousands of people wrote to their MSPs about this, so it is very welcome news that the government has listened and opted for a better Bill . Scottish voters should know who is influencing their representatives.
While we do still have some concerns about the Bill - particularly the fact that only face to face meeting are recorded and not emails or phone calls - we are confident that this Bill, when enacted, will increase public visibility of lobbying and make Holyrood one of the most transparent parliaments in Europe.
With a review built in after two years, the new lobby register should provide a firm basis for parliament to include other lobbying activity such as email correspondence.
We’ll be watching how the lobbying register works in practice and will be putting together a case so that in two years time we can help make lobbying in Scotland even more transparent.