Scottish Parliament - Holyrood

Scottish lobbying register: Creating a fair, open and level playing field

The ability to help shape policy and influence the decisions of those at parliamentary level charged with delivering the regulations which affect all of our lives is something which often dominates the headlines across the country – and not always for the right reasons.

‘Lobbying’ is a global activity that provides individuals, groups, and businesses with the opportunity to voice their opinions and ensure their interests and those of their respective sectors are protected.  

However, in recent years this practice has come under scrutiny over its lack of regulation. Public trust and providing citizens with insight into who is attempting to influence policy ensures our decision-makers are accountable for their actions.

Transparency is key to this whole process and is the reason why, in 2016, the Scottish Parliament established its lobbying register to guarantee that all interaction with MSPs was open and fair.  In turn, this creates a level playing field for all, ensuring no undue influence, enhanced accountability, and promotes informed policy making.

By participating in this process, businesses and organisations across the board are demonstrating their commitment to an equitable policy environment in Scotland. Transparency fosters trust and commits our elected representatives to formulate policies based on merit rather than hidden agendas.


So, how do you know if you need to record your activity with the Scottish Parliament’s lobbying register?

Essentially, if your organisation has had face to face or conference call engagement with a MSP, member of the Scottish Government, a special advisor, or permanent secretary outside of formal parliamentary proceedings, and has been carried out by a paid member of staff, then it’s safe to assume you need to register. However, there are exemptions for organisations smaller than 10 employees, as long as you are not a representative body.

Whether or not you have lobbied also depends on what you discuss during your interaction – if you tried in any way to influence or inform policy decisions taken by an MSP or elected representative, it must be recorded.

For more information, the best place to start is the Scottish Parliament’s website or with the lobbying team at the parliament, who are always more than happy to help with enquiries.


Registering and logging returns

The process for registering is straightforward and the Scottish Parliament website contains all the information that you need; it is also worth noting that registration is free.

Once registered you need to submit your lobbying returns at least every six months, how you do this is up to each organisation. Some like to do a bulk upload, while others prefer to log returns as they go along. If you opt for a bulk upload every six months, we recommend keeping a spreadsheet of activity as you go along, so you have an accurate log of everything that has gone on.

The good news is you can’t forget to submit a return, as the parliament sends out a reminder every six months to prompt you to act. If during the six-month period, you have had no interaction with MSPs you still need to submit a return. Simply log on and click the ‘nil return’ option on the website, for that six-month period.

The Scottish Parliament’s lobbying register is a crucial tool to ensure the principles of openness, fairness and accountability are upheld. It should be taken seriously and become an integral part of the process for any business participating in lobbying.

We regularly support our clients in ensuring they are registered and logging returns correctly. If you have any questions or concerns about the process, please get in touch with our public affairs team and they will be happy to help you.

Nicola Strachan | Policy + public affairs strategist

Find out more about our public affairs services here.

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