Politicians should be open about who they are meeting with rather than forcing lobbyists to join a register
MSPs should behave responsibly and be open about the people they are meeting with, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has said.
The body which works with Scottish charities and voluntary organisations has argued that if MSPs properly declare any conflicts of interest they have, the Scottish Government will not have to introduce a register of lobbyists.
SCVO was responding to a Scottish Government consultation on the introduction of a lobbying register, which is designed to clean up politics and ensure transparency in the political system.
It will mean that public, private and third sector bodies or individuals who want to meet with MSPs and campaign on issues will have to register their details on a public list of lobbyists.
“We firmly believe that lobbying transparency and protecting the integrity of the Scottish Parliament should be the responsibility of MSPs and officials, not lobbyists,” said John Downie, director of public affairs with SCVO.
“We’re concerned that a register would create a barrier, making it much harder for charities and third-sector organisations to give vulnerable people a voice at the Scottish Parliament.”
SCVO did, however, admit that until full proposals are outlined, it is difficult to know to what extent a register would impact on the third sector in Scotland. As a result, it argued that if the Scottish Government decides to go ahead with the register, SCVO would urge it to create light-touch rules.
The concerns come after the introduction of UK-wide lobbying laws which put restrictions on third sector bodies campaigning in the run up to elections.