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Ensuring access

Statutory Registration of Commercial Lobbyists
The Scottish Parliament's Standards Committee Consultation Paper
The UNISON Scotland Response



Executive Summary

UNISON welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Parliament's latest Consultation Paper on lobbying.We have campaigned for openness and accessibility in the Parliament, and we will continue to do our best to maintain that openness,

  • Discussions on lobbying should go further than merely to firms recognised as 'lobbyists' and their umbrella bodies.
  • Measures set up to 'register' lobbyists shouldn't mean restricting the accessibility of the Scottish Parliament to Scottish organisations.
  • We are concerned that a register of commercial lobbyists will mean a two-tier system of access. We would be very concerned if community and voluntary groups ended up in the second tier.
  • Parliament could assist by publishing guidelines on how to get information into the Parliamentary process
  • The Scottish Executive could also be included in any such guidelines.
  • The lack of clarity of the definition of 'commercial lobbyist' may well lead to confusion and lack of effectiveness.
  • UNISON has no view in principle on the registration or otherwise of lobbyists.
  • If there is to be a register, it must be authoritative, open and up-to-date.
  • Enforcement should be done through 'naming and shaming' and ultimately by debarment.
  • Perceived problems might be better addressed by regulation than by registration.


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UNISON Scotland is Scotland's largest trade union with around 150,000 members in Scotland working to deliver Scotland's public services. In particular our members work in local authorities, healthcare, higher and further education, Scotland's voluntary and community sector and in the utilities. Two thirds of our members are women.As part of the work in defending and representing our members and the services they provide, we have developed a high profile campaigning role including work representing members and services to the Scottish Parliament who have the legislative responsibility for most areas in which our members work.We made representations to the Standards Committee's Consultation Paper on Lobbying in the Scottish Parliament and are pleased to have the opportunity to also respond to this consultation.



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Accessibility — CSG Principles

UNISON Scotland has made the points before that we think the discussions on this matter should go further than people and firms recognised as ‘lobbyists' and their umbrella bodies.

This discussion goes to the heart of the Parliament's core principles of openness and accessibility and we are pleased that this is acknowledged in the consultation paper.In addition, this discussion is continuing concurrently with the Procedures Committee's investigation into the application of the CSG principles — to which UNISON will also be responding — and these cannot be seen apart.

It is important that registration of lobbyists does not restrict in any way the access of organisations in Scotland to the democratic process. We welcome the Committee's acceptance of this in paragraph 2 of the Consultation paper.It is important to stress however, that we are nevertheless concerned that the establishment of a registration scheme for commercial lobbyists will create a two-tier system.

Whether ‘commercial lobbyists' then become the first or the second tier, this would be a step back. If community and voluntary organisations representing groups of Scottish people (such as trade unions) become a ‘second-tier' it would be very damaging to the Parliamentary process and to the CSG principles.

One area where the Parliament could assist (and incidentally reduce the perceived need for commercial lobbyists) is in the opening up of procedures. Clear and simple and well publicised guidelines advising organisations when and how:

  1. To get information;
  2. legislation is formed; and
  3. they can get their views heard, would go a long way in assisting the openness and accessibility of the Parliament.
If this could be extended to include the Scottish Executive this would improve matters much more.

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UNISON is of the view that this is the bedevilling factor in the proposals for registration. Only five minutes thought produces the following categories of organisations who might be involved in ‘lobbying'.
  1. Professional/Commercial PA/PR firms or other firms with PA/PR sections
  2. Commercial Companies with in-house PA/PR functions operating on their own behalf
  3. Commercial Companies with or without in-house staff, employing Commercial PA/PR Consultants.
  4. Trade Associations using:
    1. PA/PR firms;
    2. In-house staff from a member company; or
    3. Their own resources.
  1. Umbrella groups (eg — SCVO/STUC/COSLA) using one of these three methods above
  2. Voluntary Sector/Community Organisations (including Trade Unions) with in-house staff lobbying on their own behalf
  3. Voluntary Sector/Community Organisations who employ PA/PR firms on fee or no fee basis
  4. Voluntary Sector/Community Organisations using collective support of umbrella organisation or other third party (eg voluntary group using support of SCVO's Parliamentary Information and Advice Service).
  5. Voluntary Sector/Community Organisations relying on their own resources and/or support from local/supportive MSP.
As the definition stands of the above list (a), (b) and (c) and probably (d)(i), (e)(i) and (g) would be covered in some way by the definition and the others would not.It is assumed that the definition is an attempt to distinguish between commercial and non-commercial lobbying. This it does in part. But UNISON thinks that the lists above exemplify the difficulty of this definition and, whilst we have no particular problem with registration per se, we think that this confusion and difficulty with definition means that the definition (and therefore the registration) is unlikely to be effective.



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In principle UNISON has no views for or against the registration of ‘commercial lobbyists'. As stated before we can foresee potential dangers in the creation of a two-tier system.If one is to be created, however, then it should be as authoritative and open as possible. We think that it should be kept updated continually, the format should deal with the current work of lobbyists and it should be available to the public on the Parliament's website.We think that updating should be done more often than every 28 days (perhaps fortnightly or even weekly) and it should list staff involved, who they are representing and details of expenditure.We do not think there needs to be any confidentiality of information regarding fees and clients.


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It is sometimes easy to confuse registration with regulation. It is UNISON's view that the ‘how' and ‘what' of lobbying is of more concern than the ‘who'This is not something with which this consultation paper is directly concerned, but it may be an area that will resurface. After all if there are no regulations to infringe, then sanctions that can only be taken for non-registration or for false information. This is unlikely to cover all areas of controversy.


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Policing and Enforcement

We are of the view that the only effective way of maintaining such a listing would be by the total restriction of ‘naming and shaming' and ultimately debarment from the Parliament.It is difficult to see how criminal prosecution comes into this except where criminal activity has been detected, and we wonder if non-disclosure is liable to be treated as a crime?The other point relates to our reservation regarding regulation (see above). If there is to be no regulation of what and how lobbying activity is undertaken it will not be possible to enforce this through a registration scheme.

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Questions on Registration Framework

We are proceeding on the basis that we are not covered by the definition of commercial lobbyists, but for illustrative purposes our answers to these questions are as follows:
    1. No difficulty
    2. No difficulty
    3. This would be possible, but it would be a very long list!
    4. This would be difficult, as we do not separately account for lobbying. It would probably be part of a general campaign budget or even as part of our general revenue funding
    5. No fees are charged or received
    6. We have no knowledge of this use of contingency fee arrangements.


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UNISON feels that there are many areas that potentially affect a wide range of Scottish Civic Society in the proposals. Whilst we have no hard and fast views on registration per se we are clear that the Parliament's core principles of accessibility and openness are involved in this discussion and we feel that they are the principles we would want to defend and advance. We would not wish to see a two-tier system develop. We also feel that the problems perceived in lobbying could more successfully be addressed by regulation than by registration.We would welcome the opportunity to expand on this submission to the Committee.


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For Further Information Please Contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX

Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk

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