Neil Findlay: A lobbyists’ register will keep Holyrood scandal-free

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LOBBYING is a 
legitimate and 
essential part of the political and legislative process. Nevertheless, sometimes things can, and do, go badly wrong.

Westminster has had more than its fair share of lobbying scandals over the years and now the major parties support a statutory register.

The Scottish Parliament has largely, and thankfully, avoided lobbying scandals, but it is complacent to suggest there is no need for a register here. It is better to legislate in an atmosphere free from scandal and with no party political advantage to be gained.

My Lobbying Transparency Scotland Bill intends to shed light on some basic elements of the lobbying process – who is doing the lobbying, who is being lobbied and what they are being lobbied about? The bill will create an open register that would require a simple online form to be submitted by those doing the lobbying. Criteria and thresholds will be set to protect community groups and those involved in low-level lobbying. Those who cross the threshold but fail to register would be subject to sanction.

Unlike the Westminster proposals this bill would include all who lobby, including third sector organisations. Their lobbying may not be for financial gain, but the subject matter could still be controversial and such activity should be 
transparent.

The purpose of my bill is to put in place preventative measures to protect the Scottish Parliament and avoid the scandals that have infected the Westminster body politic.

• Neil Findlay is a Lothians Labour MSP.