Lobbying is an important part of our democratic process and can take many forms. The Scottish Parliament has taken action to ensure that when lobbying takes place it is transparent.
The Lobbying (Scotland) Act 2016 (the “Act”) comes into force on 12 March 2018 and with it comes the Lobbying Register, with requirements for returns to be made to the Lobbying Registrar on a six monthly basis setting out each separate occasion on which you or your organisation has engaged in “regulated lobbying”.
What is “regulated lobbying”?
Regulated lobbying is what the Act is concerned with, and covers face-to-face communications (including video-conferencing) with MSPs, Scottish Government Ministers, Special Advisers or the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Parliament, provided that the communication relates to Scottish Government or Parliamentary functions. This is potentially a very wide category of communications and could include discussions on, for example, new legislation in the Scottish Parliament or changes to existing Scottish Government policies, as well as decisions by the Scottish Government about contracts. Significantly, you can be engaged in regulated lobbying under the Act regardless of the occasion or informality of the situation; the Act does not limit where or when regulated lobbying takes place.
There are a number of exemptions within the Act, meaning that certain face-to-face communications, such as those for the purposes of journalism or made by an individual about an issue they are raising on their own behalf, are not classed as “regulated lobbying”. The Scottish Parliament website contains useful “common scenarios” practical guidance for potential registrants and a “Five Key Steps” guidance document.