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Clear lobbying rules needed to ensure public trust, says Law Society

27 February 2014 | tagged News release

Plans to increase transparency at Holyrood are unlikely to be effective unless a clear, straightforward definition is provided for what constitutes 'lobbying' and who is a 'lobbyist', the Law Society of Scotland warned today, 27 February.

The Law Society said that clear lobbying rules are needed in order to ensure public trust.

The Law Society has also cautioned that the imposition of fees on organisations to be part of a statutory register of lobbyists may deter smaller organisations and charities from registering, which could supress communications with MSP's and stifle public debate.

The Scottish Parliament is currently conducting an inquiry on lobbying to determine whether there is a need for change and if so, what changes are required.

After giving oral evidence to the inquiry at the Scottish Parliament today, 27 February, Brian Simpson, Law Reform Officer at the Law Society of Scotland, said: "Any Bill which intends to increase transparency will need a clear, unambiguous definition of what constitutes 'lobbying' and who is a 'lobbyist'.

"This will be essential to ensure public trust in the new lobbying rules.

"It must be clear and straightforward from the outset, as it will be the basis on which individuals and organisations will determine if they need to be registered. It will form the backbone of any future register.

"The controversial passage of the UK Transparency of Lobbying Act 2014 shows how difficult legislating in this area can be. We need to make sure that whatever system is introduced is workable and fair and that the two systems are harmonised as much as possible to avoid confusion, complexity and conflict."

The inquiry is also considering proposals to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists in Scotland.

Brian Simpson, Law Reform Officer at the Law Society of Scotland, said:

"Whilst being generally supportive of a statutory register, we would recommend that the register should be independent of parliament and government and that any fees which may be imposed should be proportionate to the size and resource of the business concerned. To impose significant fees may deter smaller organisations and charities from registering, which would supress reasonable communications with MSP's and stifle legitimate public debate."

ENDS                                                                                                   27 FEBRUARY 2014

Notes to editors

Brian Simpson, Law Reform Officer at the Law Society of Scotland, and Michael Clancy, Director of Law Reform at the Law Society, gave oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee regarding the inquiry into lobbying on 27 February. Further information on the inquiry can be found on the Scottish Parliament website.

The Law Society of Scotland's written evidence to the committee can be viewed on the Law Society of Scotland website.

The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 received Royal Assent on 30 January 2014. It can be viewed on the UK Parliament website.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Journalists can contact Julia Brown on 0131 476 8204 or Suzy Powell on 0131 226 8884. For the out of hours service please call 0131 226 7411.

Email: juliabrown@lawscot.org.uk/ suzypowell@lawscot.org.uk

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