Call for mandatory lobbying register

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Campaigners for increased transparency in the lobbying of Holyrood have called for the creation of a mandatory lobbying register with financial disclosure on 16 January 2014.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay; Tamasin Cave from Alliance for Lobbying Transparency; Dr William Dinan from Spinwatch and Alexandra Runswick from Unlock Democracy were giving evidence to the Standards Committee on its inquiry into lobbying.

The inquiry will examine whether there is a problem, either actual or perceived, with the practice of lobbying and whether a register of lobbyists might help with this process.

Dr William Dinan said "a voluntary system would be a disaster" saying the register would have to be mandatory and contain financial disclosure.

Tamasin Cave from Alliance for Lobbying Transparency said the controversial Westminster Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill contained proposals that would "create a small net with massive wholes in it" which were a "sham".

Ms Cave said the bill was an example of "how not to write legislation".

The witnesses accepted there had been no major lobbying scandals since devolution, but stressed that the period of calm was the time to act.

Alexandra Runswick from Unlock Democracy said it was vital the committee did not allow the conclusions from its inquiry to be "pushed into the long grass", as had happened with Westminster select committee inquiries in the past.

Labour MSP, Neil Findlay, who consulted on his Proposed Lobbying Transparency (Scotland) Bill in 2012, said lobbying register would enhance openness and accountability "tremendously" and allow the public to see more of what goes on at Holyrood.

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