The Big Question: When does marketing a lobbying service become peddling access? - The Scottish Parliament is investigating allegations that Beattie Media consultant Kevin Reid, son of Scottish Secretary of State John Reid, offered clients special access

Stephen Lock

Stephen Lock

Ludgate public affairs

’Acceptable lobbying is giving advice to clients so they are awarded

access on the strength of their cause and argument. I am all for

aggressive marketing, but it should concentrate on issues, rather than

people. What is noticeable about these recurring claims of lobbyists

offering access, is that they usually involve young people, new to

consulting. In all the cases we have seen, the real blame can usually be

placed at the door of the agency heads, who have taken too little time

to train their younger staff on the ethics and pitfalls of consultancy

marketing. I hope the APPC can be persuaded to address this aspect of

training urgently.’

Julia Clarke

Holyrood Strategy

’We don’t sell access. We sell effective professional communications,

political advice and analysis, helping clients compose an effective

communications message, whatever the audience. It is political,

certainly, but there is nothing immoral about that. We wouldn’t peddle

access and clients don’t come to us and ask whether we can get them that

minister. What they ask is how they would go about telling them about

their issues. The central points of the Association for Scottish Public

Affairs code of conduct include being open and honest in dealing with

politicians, being open about the clients you represent when dealing

with politicians, and not offering hospitality that is


Mario Dunn

Dixons Group

’I had hoped we had heard the end of ’cash for access’ and it is

unfortunate the reputation of the Scottish Parliament has been

undermined in this way. If you have something interesting to say,

ministers will listen.

Businesses should not be lured into thinking that by paying money to a

lobby company they are somehow buying access. The best marketing a lobby

company can do is to demonstrate it understands the issues facing the

client and guide them through the complex political road map that now

extends from Westminster to Brussels, Edinburgh, Cardiff and the English

regions. It should be up to the client to do the rest.’

Ian Wright

Boots the Chemists

’I think the answer is that it is never right to peddle access. In a

democracy, everyone must have access. The proper role for lobbyists is

in helping in the presentation of the case, helping to make it clearer

and more forceful. I wouldn’t believe a lobbyist who said to me they

could get me access for something where I couldn’t get it myself. In the

Draper case - what he said was that he could get you in with the 17 most

influential people in Britain - well, if you have such an important

thing to say, the 17 most influential people in Britain would be pretty

stupid not to listen to you. I think it would be more serious if they

could show that lobbyists had undue influence. But as a rule, the better

the lobbyists, the less they claim. What we want to know is what their

insight is. I think there is a very clear line, which should never be

crossed. Anybody claiming to get you access should be shown the door


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