Statutory Registration of Commercial Lobbyists
The Scottish Parliament's Standards Committee Consultation Paper
The UNISON Scotland Response
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
- 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
- If there is to be a register, it must be authoritative, open
- Enforcement should be done through 'naming and shaming' and
ultimately by debarment.
- Perceived problems might be better addressed by regulation
than by registration.
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.
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:
If this could be extended to include the Scottish Executive this would
improve matters much more.
- To get information;
- legislation is formed; and
- they can get their views heard, would go a long way in assisting
the openness and accessibility of the Parliament.
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'.
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.
- Professional/Commercial PA/PR firms or other firms with PA/PR
- Commercial Companies with in-house PA/PR functions operating
on their own behalf
- Commercial Companies with or without in-house
staff, employing Commercial PA/PR Consultants.
- Trade Associations using:
- PA/PR firms;
- In-house staff from a member company; or
- Their own resources.
- Umbrella groups (eg SCVO/STUC/COSLA) using one of these
three methods above
- Voluntary Sector/Community Organisations (including Trade
Unions) with in-house staff lobbying on their own behalf
- Voluntary Sector/Community Organisations who employ PA/PR
firms on fee or no fee basis
- 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
- Voluntary Sector/Community Organisations relying on their
own resources and/or support from local/supportive MSP.
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
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.
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.
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:
This would be possible, but it would be a
very long list!
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
No fees are charged or received
We have no knowledge of this use of contingency
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.
For Further Information Please Contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835
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