Lobbygate: A public relations scandal

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WHILE perhaps not playing host to parliamentary scandals on the scale of those at Westminster, the corridors of power at Holyrood have always attracted lobbyists looking to win favour with MSPs.

Within months of the parliament’s creation in 1999, the then Scottish Secretary, John Reid, and Jack McConnell, who was the Scottish finance minister, were dragged into a row over access to ministers.

Labelled, somewhat inevitably, “Lobbygate”, secret newspaper recordings showed Reid’s lobbyist son boasting of his links to senior Labour party figures.

Kevin Reid and a colleague from PR firm Beattie Media, which had once employed McConnell, were said to have told an undercover reporter that their relations with ministers would “make things easier” for clients.

The row led to an inquiry and proposals from the parliament’s standards committee, which were later dropped, that there be a registration scheme for all commercial lobbyists.

In 2008, there were further calls for an overhaul of Holyrood’s lobbying rules when MSPs were found to be handing out passes which allowed unrestricted access to all areas of the parliament.

It was reported that one in five MSPs had given a “regular visitor” pass to either an interest group, a party colleague or an organisation that has given money to their party.

The publication of a list of all Holyrood pass-holders showed that nearly 90 per cent had gone to lobbyists, party colleagues or donors, despite a condition that all those receiving security clearance did so on the condition that they did not engage in lobbying.