From the 12th March, all organisations who lobby MSPs must start logging all meetings with MSPs on the Scottish Lobbying Register. This includes most charities. Find out what this means for your organisation below…
What is it?
The Scottish Lobbying Register is being introduced following the passage of the Lobbying (Scotland) Act 2016. The Act places a duty on Parliament to establish a register of regulated lobbying to ensure greater transparency around the organisations and individuals informing and influencing government policy and decisions made by elected representatives. The Register is an online system logging all instances of regulated lobbying.
Who does it apply to?
The Act and its regulations apply to any organisation or individual engaged in regulated lobbying, unless they are covered by one of the exemptions below.
When does it come into force?
The Act comes into force on 12 March 2018, and all regulated lobbying taking place after this date must be recorded in the online Lobbying Register. Every organisation engaged in ‘regulated lobbying’ must make at minimum one submission every six months, reporting on any lobbying meetings that took place since the last submission. The online system is available in real time, and organisations can also choose to log meetings more often. The online system is currently available as part of a familiarisation and testing period here, but will be wiped and re-launched before 12 March.
What is regulated lobbying?
Regulated lobbying, as defined by the guidance on the operation of the Act, is “lobbying which takes place face-to-face with MSPs, members of Scottish Government, Special Advisers or Permanent Secretaries and which relates to Scottish Government or Parliamentary functions”.
The interpretation of “parliamentary functions” is broad, and includes any discussion of legislation or actions which an MSP or Special Adviser can take as a function of their position, including speaking in parliament, voting, and asking parliamentary questions. The Act covers contact taking place in any situation, not just formal meetings – so if you meet an MSP for lunch on behalf of your organisation, this should also be logged.
The helpful chart below guides you through the definition of regulated lobbying.
Credit: Scottish Government
Who will be able to access the information?
The Scottish Lobbying Register will be accessible online in real time to anyone who would like to view it.
What are the exemptions?
There are 13 separate exemptions in the Act’s schedule. If any of these exemptions apply, you do not have to log the meeting in question. The most relevant exemptions are:
- If you are raising an issue with an MSP on your own behalf as a private individual, rather than on behalf of any other group
- If the meeting is not part of paid work
- If the meeting is on behalf of a company/or organisation with fewer than 10 full-time employees and you are representing your own organisation. This exemption does not apply if you are communicating on behalf of a third party or in a representative capacity (e.g. if you work for a small agency and are representing a client).
- Any communications made during formal parliamentary proceedings (e.g. a meeting of a parliamentary committee)
- If the meeting takes place for the purposes of journalism
- If the meeting takes place in response to a request for information from MSPs or Special Advisers, meaning they actively reached out to you. However, if during the course of the same meeting you then discuss additional topics which the MSP did not explicitly request information about and might be considered lobbying, the meeting should still be logged.
Read the full list of exemptions here.
For more details, see the Scottish Lobbying Register here.