Holyrood lobbying register ‘should have no fees’

MSPs are discussing the concept of a lobbyists' register at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Neil Hanna
MSPs are discussing the concept of a lobbyists' register at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A SCOTTISH register of lobbyists should be funded by the public purse rather than from fees, MSPs were told today.

Charities and union leaders agreed that organisations should not have to pay to sign up if a register of lobbyists were established.

Dave Moxham, deputy general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, stressed if a register was created there should be “no fee” for those registering.

Jenny Kemp, the co-ordinator for the charity Zero Tolerance, said: “I would say no fee as well, I think that would not align with the founding principles of the Parliament. I think the money for it would have to come from the public purse.”

Sarah Collier, from Children in Scotland, agreed there should be no charges for registering.

“No fees, that would be the response given by our members,” she told MSPs on Holyrood’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.

The committee is considering if a register should be established as part of its inquiry into whether there is a problem with lobbying and access to politicians in Scotland.

Ms Kemp, whose organisation works to tackle violence against women, argued that establishing a register could help make Holyrood more open and transparent.

She told the committee: “At the moment it is so hard to know if something is happening in Parliament, who has been discussing it, what the interests are.

“We find it very, very hard to find out who is engaging in women’s issues, particularly from the commercial, corporate, vested interest side, who is actually meeting with the MSPs.

“Anything that opens up the process and lets us know who MSPs are meeting with, who they are discussing things with, what information they are receiving, how they are reaching the decisions they are reaching. That has to be a good thing.”

But the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is opposed to a register, believing instead that MSPs and Scottish Government ministers should publish their diaries and make public who they are holding meetings with.

SCVO director of public affairs John Downie said: “We are opposed to the register and are advocating the publishing of MSPs’ diaries because we believe that MSPs and politicians at all levels in Scotland are responsible for the transparency of their activities, not those who wish to engage with them.”