Opinions

Preparing for the Lobbying Act

Written by: Andrew Strong, Assistant Director (Policy and Communications), the ALLIANCE

Published: 27/02/2018

Photo of the outside of the Scottish Parliament building

Andrew shares the ALLIANCE's approach to the new Lobbying (Scotland) Act.

We are approaching yet another landmark in the development of the Scottish Parliament.

From 12 March, a new set of rules will be introduced that require the registration of specific types of face to face engagement with MSPs, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet and ministers, Special Advisers (SpADs) and the Permanent Secretary. Whilst that may not attract the same attention as a new cohort of MSPs or newly devolved powers, the Lobbying (Scotland) Act will require consideration and action by a range of public affairs professionals, and beyond.

Back in 2012, Neil Findlay MSP’s members bill on lobbying sought to require the recording of relevant information about lobbying activity in a published register for the purposes of improving transparency. This idea was subsequently adopted by the Scottish Government who were tasked with taking forward a policy which aimed to act as a deterrent to future poor lobbying practice, rather than because of any perceived impropriety.

As a result, the new rules are complex. If an MSP asks to meet you, this won’t require to be logged. Discussions within Cross Party Group meetings don’t count but if you have a one-to-one chat with an MSP in the same room after the meeting closes then this does. The civil service, besides the Permanent Secretary, are not subject to the Act.  The Scottish Parliament has been required to issue a detailed, but helpful, set of key steps (this link will take you away from our website) highlighting what is and what isn’t considered regulated lobbying.

For many of the ALLIANCE’s members, influencing policy and legislation are key areas of their focus. The third sector, after all, has a lot to contribute to ensuring policy and strategy is robust and reflects the views of people from geographical communities and communities of interest across Scotland.

As we seek to influence change on behalf of our members, the new rules will be a consideration for the ALLIANCE itself too. Over the coming weeks I’ll be meeting with MSPs to discuss a range of issues, from the new social security legislation to the health and social care issues related to Brexit. Each of these meetings will have a different set of arrangements which will interact with the rules of the new lobbying regulations in a different way.

In this respect we have developed a new Regulated Lobbying Policy for our staff and are sharing this with members to help with their planning for the Act. The policy has been developed with the ALLIANCE’s circumstances in mind and any organisation looking to develop such a policy would require to amend and change it to their own demands. But we hope that publishing our approach will help others.

The new rules are undoubtedly a challenge for the third sector, but also an opportunity to show our worth to the law making process.

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