Scotland politics

MSPs call for register of lobbyists

Scottish Parliament Image copyright PA
Image caption Organisations which have regular contact with MSPs would have to provide information for the register

The names of major political lobbyists in Scotland should be made public to improve transparency, the parliament's standards committee has said.

An online register would include a list of organisations which spend large amounts of cash employing people to influence MSPs.

In 2013, the Scottish government announced plans to legislate on lobbying, but no bill has yet emerged.

Ministers said they remained committed to taking the issue forward.

The cross-party standards committee recommended the register should cover "significant" lobbying activity, which would also take in organisations which have sustained contact with politicians.

They would need to provide information on meetings with MSPs, events and hospitality involving MSPs and details of what the lobbying aimed to achieve.

Healthy democracy

Committee convener Stewart Stevenson, an SNP MSP, said: "Lobbying is a legitimate, valuable and necessary part of a healthy democracy.

"But a parliament founded on openness must seek to make clear who is lobbying, on what issues, and why."

Plans for a register of lobbyists - originally suggested by Labour MSP Neil Findlay - were put forward in the wake of events at Westminster, after three peers were accused of agreeing to carry out parliamentary work for payment.

The Scottish Parliament has remained free of any serious lobbying scandal, apart from an incident in 1999 when the Observer newspaper reported that public relations firm Beattie Media touted for business by offering privileged access to Scottish ministers.

A Scottish government spokesman welcomed the committee's report, adding: "We have repeatedly said that the standards committee's inquiry into lobbying is central to determining the best way forward and we will now take the time to carefully consider its findings.

"The Scottish government remains committed to take forward the development of a Lobbying Transparency Bill."

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