Editorial: Scottish lobbying isn’t cleared yet

Scottish first minister Donald Dewar wrote last October to the 112 publicly-funded bodies within his remit, asking for details of any PR agency contact they had had since July 1999. The outcome, reported on page two today as having ’identified no grounds for concern,’ is flawed.

Scottish first minister Donald Dewar wrote last October to the 112

publicly-funded bodies within his remit, asking for details of any PR

agency contact they had had since July 1999. The outcome, reported on

page two today as having ’identified no grounds for concern,’ is

flawed.



The most obvious flaw is that as an attempt to clear the sometimes murky

waters of Scottish lobbying it fails, since it only covers public

bodies.



Lobbying scandals in recent years have tended to concern private sector

clients - the profit motive clearly gives them more to gain from

impropriety.



But there are other weaknesses. Local authorities are not within the

remit of the Scottish executive, while in-house PROs were likewise

excluded.



The report is thus rather limited.



Furthermore, the claim that ’nobody reported any payment for seeking

advice or assistance to approach, influence or persuade members of the

Scottish Parliament or ministers’ is either, as one Scottish PR veteran

put it, ’extremely hard to believe’, or it is because they already had

an adequate level of access. Public and private bodies have a right to

present a case to decision-makers. For many public affairs consultants,

trying to influence or persuade those in power is a key part of the

job.



They should not be ashamed of it, and the executive should not be so

disingenuous as to pretend it doesn’t happen in the public sector. A

whitewash and a clean bill of health are not the same thing.



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