It all seemed so distant, but now the time horizon for preparing for the introduction of new regulations on lobbying in the Scottish Parliament have narrowed significantly. Organisations across the UK, not just those based in Scotland, need to get ready for implementation of the Scottish Lobbying Act.
With less than 100 days until introduction on 12th March, the time is right to be informed and be prepared for the new regulatory landscape.
The Act that regulates lobbying in Scotland isn’t perfect, but from an APPC perspective it’s much, much better than the UK “equivalent”. The playing field is more even - lobbyists will be treated largely similarly whether they are consultants or working in-house; it will capture a more meaningful segment of lobbying activity - not just the Permanent Secretary and Secretary of State, and it will add to transparency.
However, there will be an administrative burden, however marginal, and the fear will remain that a lack of knowledge may (at the margin) mean that organisations seeking to inform and influence will change their behaviour. That was not the intention, and the minister Jim Fitzpatrick MSP repeatedly emphasized during the passage of the Bill that lobbying was a good thing, and made for better informed debate and better legislation.
The lobbying industry needs to hold that thought. We need to be more positive about the difference we make. For too long, we have been on the back foot, too defensive about what we do and why we do it. I hope the Scottish regulatory commencement will be another step in changing that situation for the better, and a more self-confident approach in lobbying.
In the meantime, it’s vital that all public affairs professionals get their organisations ready for Scottish regulations implementation. Ask yourself whether you are ready, and if not make use of the next three months to ensure your compliance. From an APPC perspective, representing the gold-standard in lobbying ethical standards, this is a crucial period. You can find out more online here.