Lobbying in the Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament's Standards Committee Consultation Paper
The UNISON Scotland Response
This paper constitutes a response from UNISON Scotland to the Scottish
Executive document Making a Difference for Scotland which includes
the draft budget and spending plans for 2001-02 to 2003-04. This
paper builds on our response to the Stage 1 consultation included
in the Annual Expenditure Report.
UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union and represents staff
in almost all of the areas highlighted in the spending plans.
UNISON Scotland is Scotland's largest trade union with around
145,000 members working in Local Authorities, Health Care, Higher
Education, the Voluntary Sector and Scotland's utilities.
We are pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the Consultation
Paper on Lobbying in the Scottish Parliament issued by the Standards
Objective and Definition
We are unclear about now the stated objectives of the consultation
paper (para 2) fit with the definition of lobbying in para 4. If
the objectives are, as they appear to be, purely related to "lobbying
groups", i.e. groupings of private lobbying and public affairs
firms, then they will exclude much of the "representation of
organised interests to MSP's by the interested parties themselves",
as detailed in the definition.
For example, this definition would include representation by voluntary
groups, community groups, charities, trade unions, local authorities
and umbrella groups such as the STUC, SCVO and COSLA. Most of these
will not be members of lobbying groups nor will they use the services
of public affairs professionals.
We therefore think that discussion of this consultation paper should
be broadened considerably and groups and organisations such as these
mentioned above and should be invited to contribute.
UNISON supports the Consultative Steering Group report Shaping
Scotland's Parliament' and the Code of Conduct'
Working Group Report. We would wish to ensure that the basic
.. to lobby' is a fundamental principle of access
to the Parliament. It is important that procedures and access are
as clear and open as possible, and whilst the Scottish Parliament
has made a good start, it is perceived that the Scottish Executive
is less obviously accessible with less clear procedures and openness.
UNISON feels there could be clearer guidelines to assist in the
lobbying process. Detailing, for example, what is appropriate, and
at what time in the process, e.g. initial consultation, pre legislative
scrutiny, committee procedure, committee consultation, legislative
Statutory Regulation - v -Voluntary Code
The consultation paper gives a succinct definition of the problem
and UNISON would not like to see wrangles over the definition and
status of lobbyist obscure and restrict access to the Scottish Parliament.
We have no view on the debate between Statutory or Voluntary Code
but whatever code is adopted, it must clearly identify to whom it
applies, and be generally accepted by all relevant organisations.
There remains the possibility of a different approach to professional
lobbyists' than to in-house lobbying. In the former case it
would, for example, be important to clarify who the professional
lobbyists are working for.
There also seems to be some confusion between regulation and registration.
These are not the same thing although they might both be adopted.
Regulations whether statutory or voluntary are not necessarily exclusive
and could seek to encourage/increase transparency.
We are quite clear however, that whatever system is adopted we
would be opposed to anything that restricted access especially
one that limited access to lobbying groups' alone.
Code of Conduct
UNISON Scotland is a member of ASPA and has accepted their Code
of Conduct. We therefore have no objection in principle to a code
indeed would see much merit in a code that ensured consistency
of treatment. However there is still the problem of definition
would the same code apply to a professional public affairs company
working of behalf of many commercial clients as it would to a small
tenants association or trade union branch?
1.1 UNISON Scotland is Scotland's largest trade union.
We represent members working in Scotland's public services.
The areas are outlined in our introduction to the report.
1.2 Yes this has ranged from a simple response
to consultation, through special briefings for MSP's; speaking
to committees; talking to individual MSP's; discussions with
Ministers; cross party groups etc.
1.3 Between one and an infinite number, depending on the
issue and circumstances (e.g. we would look for longer discussion
on complex issues where there was conflict; than on a simple issue
which attracts consensus).
1.4 Dozens of issues have been raised with appropriate
Ministers and Committees Health/Local Government Finance/Housing
Stock Transfer/Fuel Poverty/Equal Opportunities various/Section
28/Local Government pay and many others.
1.5 Mostly see above.
1.6 Sometimes - for example our work on fuel poverty was
partly to raise the issue and partly to get it included in the
1.7 No but we are sometimes part of broader campaigns/groups/umbrella
organisations such as STUC/Single Issue Campaigns, e.g. on Fuel
Poverty we worked with Energy Action Scotland and Transco; on
Housing Stock Transfer with the STUC and Joint Unions etc. This
is never on a paid basis.
1.8 Yes at the beginning. It is always clear who
we are and who we represent.
2.1 We use all methods.
2.2 Face to face remains best way of communicating. Then
by telephone, e-mail and letter in descending order of effectiveness.
2.3 Yes groups of MP's who are or were UNISON
members or staff.
2.4 It is probable that committees where we are known
to have a membership interest, e.g Local Government/Health/Higher
Education/Voluntary Sector; would be more likely to approach us.
2.5 Very easy using the website.
2.6 This is the nub of the problem access is good
but it is unclear when is the most effective time.
2.7 Whilst the rules/procedures are better than Westminster
or local councils, there is still some bureaucracy and probably
always will be.
2.8 Mainly yes in most areas of our work MSP's
have been available and approachable although extremely busy.
3.1 Impossible to answer until it is known what the definition
of Professional' lobbyist is. We would be opposed to
a system where professional' lobbyists are seen as
the "Gateway" to the Scottish Parliament.
3.2 Standardisation of code and the possibility of sanctions.
3.3 Restricting access and defining who are lobbyists.
3.4 If there is to be a statutory scheme it should be
policed' by Parliament probably the Standards
Committee. Sanctions should include naming and shaming'
and ultimately suspension/debarrment.
3.5 We have no code guidelines but we are members of ASPA
and have signed up to their code.
3.6 To establish guidelines, and to encourage transparency.
3.7 Advantages include the fact that voluntary adherence
is better than statutory submission. The disadvantages include
the fact that not all adhere to the same code or indeed any code.
3.8 If a standard voluntary code is introduced by Parliament
it could be made clear who was/was not signed up, but see 3.10
3.9 Status arguments and problems of definition would
still exist with a voluntary code.
3.10 In all probability the only sanctions that could
be applied to a voluntary code is removal from the list and naming
and shaming' the organisation.
UNISON Scotland thinks that discussion of this important issue
should be broadened to include a broader range of organisations
and their umbrella bodies.
We support the Consultative Steering Group's reports on
Shaping Scotland's Parliament and the Code of Conduct. We
support the basic right to lobby' as an important democratic
right held by all individuals and organisations.
Procedures and access are good but might be improved. The Scottish
Executive could adopt some of the openness of the Scottish Parliament.
In particular, clear guidelines could be produced on what type
of input/lobbying is appropriate at what stage of the legislative
UNISON has no strong preference for a Statutory or a Voluntary
Code. What we are clearly in favour of is continuing and broadening
the freedom of access to the Parliament (and the Executive).
UNISON would oppose any increase in restrictions to the access
of groups representing the Scottish People in their varied shapes
Whichever outcome is adopted it is important that smaller groups
are not disadvantaged in their access to the Parliament. It should
be clear to whoever any code applies and what sanctions are possible.
We welcome the chance to comment on the Consultative Paper and
would be willing to expand on these comments at anytime in the future,
either in writing or by personally appearing before the Committee.
For Further Information Please Contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141 342 2835