To coincide with the SNP conference this week, Spinwatch, Unlock Democracy and Electoral Reform Society Scotland have published Holyrood Exposed: A Guide to Lobbying in Scotland.
Holyrood Exposed takes you on a walking tour of Edinburgh’s influence industry: the commercial lobbying agencies; corporate in-house lobbying teams; industry bodies, think tanks, and management consultants.
It tells you which lobbyists have been hiring top SNP staff; which have been wining and dining Nicola Sturgeon's special advisers; shines a light on some of the tactics they use to get their way; and profiles some of the powerful players lined up for policy battles on alcohol pricing, plain packaging for cigarettes and fracking in Scotland.
As more powers are devolved to Scotland, Holyrood has become an increasingly attractive target for lobbyists. “This is an incredibly exciting time for Scottish politics and public affairs”, says lobbying firm PLMR. Jon McLeod, chief lobbyist at Weber Shandwick, puts it bluntly: “post-referendum... there are going to be winners and losers across all sectors. It's a lobbyist's dream.”
Holyrood Exposed looks in detail at how lobbying firms plan to ensure their clients are among the winners.
At the moment, none of this lobbying activity is out in the open. The Scots have no way of knowing who is talking to their politicians and about what.
The Scottish government has proposed introducing some transparency into lobbying, with a compulsory register of lobbyists, but their proposals don’t go far enough. They will only allow the public to see a fraction of the lobbying taking place in Scotland. Holyrood Exposed points to successful lobbying registers in the US, Canada and elsewhere to show that Scotland has an opportunity to create real transparency in lobbying.
Tamasin Cave of Spinwatch said: "Having watched the Westminster government bodge transparency rules for lobbyists down here, it's disheartening to see the Scottish government go down the same road.
"A decent register of lobbyists – which would simply make public who is lobbying whom, about what, and how much they are spending in the process – is an essential feature of modern government, not a 'nice to have'.
Westminster's lobbyists are drooling at the opportunities Scottish politics presents. As a consequence, they are buying up anyone with an inside track to the SNP. The Scottish government must allow people to see exactly who it is talking to, not just the tiny proportion of the lobbying industry currently proposed. Their plans are a long way from the new politics Scotland was promised."