For more quotes, information or to arrange an interview, contact Willie Sullivan, Electoral Reform Society Scotland Director, on 07940 523842

Transparency campaigners have today welcomed recommendations from a key Parliamentary Committee on the Scottish Government’s Lobbying Bill, describing the calls as a “strong push towards genuine lobbying transparency.” The Committee has followed the Scottish Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (SALT) in calling for the scope of the bill to be widened significantly.

The Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s Stage 1 report on the Lobbying (Scotland) Bill today suggested that the current proposals to limit regulated lobbying to face-to-face oral communication could “leave a great deal of important information unrecorded and create a loophole for those wishing to conceal their activity.” The report recommends that the definition of regulated lobbying should be expanded to include all forms of communication.

It also suggests that lobbying of public officials other than MSPs and Ministers should be considered for registration, and that parliament might choose to ask lobbyists to disclose how much they spend on campaigns.

Willie Sullivan, director of ERS Scotland said:

“These recommendations show just how pioneering the Scottish Parliament can be when it works well. The Committee has given a strong push towards genuine lobbying transparency, and the Lobbying Bill should now be improved to close the loopholes."

“This report has addressed many of the problems with the Government’s bill, and has laid down a challenge for MSPs to follow suit. As the report makes clear, it is crucial that all forms of communication are included in a register of lobbying, as well as the lobbying of senior civil servants and special advisors – things which are left out of the current Bill."

“The Government can and should go further to ensure the Scottish public are not kept in the dark about who meets their representatives and civil servants, or how much is being spent on trying to change the laws that effect all of us. The Bill needs to include financial disclosure in the register of lobbying activity, so that Scots can see how much is being spent influencing policy-makers.”

“If these recommendations are put into practice, this bill could be huge step forward for lobbying transparency, and an example for the rest of the world to follow. It’s up to the rest of the Scottish Parliament to follow the Committee’s lead and show that they really care about transparency and a democracy fit for the 21st century.”

Dr. Will Dinan of Spinwatch said:

"The SPPA committee has clearly identified some of the key problems with the draft bill. If the Scottish Government are prepared to accept a few sensible, straightforward changes, the bill could yet make lobbying in Scotland more accountable. The recognition that financial disclosure should be kept under review is also welcome, though it would be preferable from a transparency perspective to write that into the legislation now."

Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy, said:

"We welcome the Standards Committee's report, which includes valuable improvements for a stronger lobbying register. The Committee's recommendations would give the public a much clearer picture of who is trying to influence their politicians. The Scottish government should listen to the committee and close the loopholes in its Bill. 

Lobbyists should not be allowed to avoid transparency by talking to politicians by phone or email. The lobbying register should cover contact with key decision-makers across government and the civil service, not just ministers and MSPs. Lobbyists should be required to declare how much they are spending to influence decisions, whether it's £500 or £500,000."

For more quotes, information or to arrange an interview, contact Willie Sullivan, Electoral Reform Society Scotland Director, on 07940 523842

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

The Committee’s recommendations are available here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/94898.aspx