Scottish Government's draft lobbying bill does not go far enough, say industry and campaigners

The Scottish Government's draft lobbying bill has been broadly welcomed by the industry, although some said the legislation does not go far enough.

Holyrood: The Scottish Government has published details of its draft lobbying bill
Holyrood: The Scottish Government has published details of its draft lobbying bill
Holyrood published details of its lobbying bill on Friday, including proposals for a lobbying register and code of conduct.

The Association of Professional Political Consultants in Scotland said the proposed legislation was an improvement on Westminster’s lobbying register, which came into force in March.

Peter Duncan, chairman of APPC Scotland, said: "We welcome the publication of this bill which will look to be a much more sustainable basis for final legislation than the legislation implemented in Westminster last year. Professional lobbyists embrace greater transparency, indeed that was the founding principle of APPC's formation."

Crucially, the bill proposes including in-house professionals on the list, a move welcomed by the industry.

Francis Ingham, PRCA director general, said: "We welcome the inclusion of in-house professionals – an estimated 80 per cent of our industry – and it is a clear sign that Holyrood has learned from some of Westminster’s mistakes."

But the PRCA said the legislation must go further than the current draft bill to be effective.

Ingham added: "Our industry believes in a register which covers anyone influencing government or advising others how to influence government, rather than simply defining it as oral communication. This is an improvement on Westminster’s legislation, but it falls short of the industry’s own voluntary disclosure. Civil servants, for instance, remain completely omitted from the scope."

The CIPR called the draft legislation a "workable register" but said the Scottish Government must continue to listen to the lobbying profession to ensure that "statutory and professional regulation work side by side" to increase public trust in democratic institutions.

But campaigners were critical of the proposed legislation and called it "business as usual" for the Scottish lobbying industry.

Alexandra Runswick, director of Unlock Democracy, said: "Scotland's lobbyists will breathe a sigh of relief on reading this bill. The proposed register will cover only a fraction of the lobbying that takes place in and around Holyrood.
"The SNP said it wanted to make Scotland more transparent than the rest of the UK. Instead it has published a bill which is full of handy loopholes for lobbyists. With these proposals, the Government has wasted a golden opportunity to bring lobbying out into the open."

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