Scottish Government labels UK lobbying reforms "mishandled"

The Scottish Government has criticised the handling of lobbying regulation south of the border as it refers the issue to its own parliamentarians.

Holyrood: Home of the Scottish Parliament (Credit: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament)
Holyrood: Home of the Scottish Parliament (Credit: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament)

Scottish MPs (MSPs) will now have the chance to feed into how and in what way the Scottish Government should adopt lobbying legislation following a decision by a Holyrood committee handling an inquiry into the issue. 

The move sees MSPs giving feedback to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee (SPPAC) in a debate this autumn over what steps, including a proposed register of lobbyists, could be taken improve transparency. 

However, whatever the outcome, the SNP-led Scottish Government hinted proposals are unlikely to go the way of the controversial bill approved in the House of Commons earlier this year. 

Stating that the aim was to get something "that everyone can stand behind", a spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: 

"The Government is, quite properly, waiting to hear the SPPAC’s findings. We have all seen at Westminster what can happen when legislation of this nature is mishandled, and we will not make the same mistakes in Scotland."

The apparent dig follows the UK Government giving the go-ahead to a register excluding in-house lobbyists earlier this year despite widespread condemnation from the PR industry.

A summary of evidence published by the SPPAC last month revealed it had heard from bodies including CBI Scotland, the Law Society and lobbying scrutiny group Spinwatch.

Alastair Ross, secretary for the Association for Scottish Public Affairs, was encouraged by the contents of the summary.

Referring to a section that stated the committee was mindful of making sure its recommendations were "proportionate"  and did "not act as a deterrent to those seeking to engage with policy formulation", Ross said: 

"It seems that they are taking a sensible approach, and there is a lot of positive recognition [of the role of lobbying] in the document.   

"It being referred to MSPs makes sense as they are the ones who get lobbied and have the experience to discuss it, so we’ll be able to get away from stereotypes and misconceptions." 

Once feedback from the MSPs' debate is taken on board, the SPPAC will publish a report with specific recommendations.  

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