Lobbying Industry is Gearing up For Scottish Lobbying Register Launch

By Peter Duncan, Chair APPC Scotland

Significant progress is now being made towards the implementation of the Lobbying (Scotland) Act, with anticipated introduction now set for 12th March 2018. The APPC has played a significant and pro-active role in discussions across the Scottish Parliament during its parliamentary stages, and has maintained a good level of dialogue since then with Government and the newly appointed Scottish Lobbying Registrar, Billy McLaren.

In summary, all APPC members will have a responsibility to complete a register entry for each and every face-to-face meeting with any MSPs, Ministers, Special Advisers and very senior civil servants where lobbying takes place. In addition, everyone will have a responsibility to abide by a code of conduct that will govern all lobbying activity in Scotland. Just as importantly, you will need to be aware of activities that will not need to be registered, including with Councillors, other public officials and Members of Parliament (MPs).

As we move towards implementation of the Act, there has been a good level of scrutiny from a Scottish Parliament working group, on which APPC Scottish secretary Matt Revett sits. They have approved some helpful guidance notes, which will be circulated in due course to members when they are finalised. The lobbying register will open for a familiarisation phase from 23rd October (www.lobbying.scot) before the commencement date in March - any activity logged in this period will be wiped clean before the legal obligation begins. A marketing campaign will be delivered by the Scottish Parliament across traditional and social media channels in early 2018 to spread the message and direct people to the guidance and the register.

The APPC has arranged for the Registrar to attend a meeting of APPC in London to explain and discuss the implementation of the act, and we’d encourage all members to attend and ensure that all staff are aware of the coming legislation.

Some issues remain to be resolved, and some will only emerge in general usage. These include dealing with a relatively low level of awareness amongst MSPs, which remains a significant issue. Individual parties will be introducing their own training and guidance notes, and we will continue to engage proactively with them to ensure knowledge rises, and we must ensure the Act’s introduction does not impact negatively on the level of willingness amongst MSPs, ministers and others to remain open to discussion and engagement with lobbyists and their clients.

As the Scottish Government minister recognised during the legislation’s passage, lobbying is a good thing: it helps deliver better parliamentary processes and improves legislation. All APPC members should ensure that compliance with this new legislation is prioritised. The regulations in Scotland are in most ways better than those at Westminster, but they are substantially different and preparation is necessary to avoid inadvertent breach of the rules.