Open lobbying

You report (13 March) that the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life in Scotland reported to a Holyrood committee that there is little evidence of problematic lobbying in the Scottish Parliament.

However, an issue that deserves consideration relates to the apparently independent bodies which lobby parliament and the government about public policy issues, and which are themselves almost totally funded by the government. Some appear to be very shy about explaining their dependency on government funding.

The Equality Network, which receives £230,000 per annum Scottish Government funding, employs seven staff. It works to promote the equality and well-being of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people.

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It was a prominent participant in the recent debates over same-sex marriage. In these debates it has appeared as an independent agency although its funding means it is responsive to the Scottish Government agenda. It appears also to be in a position to greatly influence the government and parliament with its technical and policy advice in relation to relevant legislation. It is a para-statal organisation but does not acknowledge, as of this date, its public funding on its website.

Similarly, Interfaith Scotland, which promotes dialogue between religious denominations and engagement over public issues, does not, in its 2011-12 annual report, give evidence of the sources of the funding of its annual expenditure of £150,000. It currently receives annual funding from the Scottish Government of £120,000 plus £50,000 for an interfaith project in Glasgow.

It, too, has engaged in consultations with the government over the same-sex marriage legislation and other matters.

It would serve transparency if these bodies made this clear in their websites and publications.

These cases, and others, raise issues that deserve consideration by parliament in relation to the question of lobbying and transparency in the administration of public funds and the making of legislation.

(Prof) Norman Bonney

Palmerston Place