Holyrood urged to 'rehabilitate' lobbying with public campaign
Report ordered by Scottish Parliament backs major engagement drive.
The Scottish government has been advised to organise a public education campaign about lobbying in order to make a success of its lobbying register.
In a new report for the Scottish Parliament, ministers have been urged to make it clear to the public what lobbying entails and to “stress the positive aspects of lobbying”.
The report was commissioned by the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body on behalf of the Scottish lobbying registrar Billy McLaren. It comes as the Scottish lobbying register is due to go live by April 2018.
The report has been authored by Dr Eve Hepburn, who is also managing director of policy research consultancy Policy Scribe. Hepburn's research included interviews with those running lobbying or transparency registers in Brussels, Dublin, Westminster, several Canadian provinces and New South Wales.
The report states: “If the Scottish Parliament is to proceed with its broad definition of lobbying… then it is necessary to organise a public education campaign that makes clear what lobbying is, and what it isn’t. In particular, there is a need to stress the positive aspects of lobbying (i.e. organisations making their views heard to public officials in a transparent and open way to help inform decision-making)."
The author adds: “As one registrar told me, 'we need to reclaim and rehabilitate the word.' If organisations and individuals have a more positive understanding of the term lobbying, they are more likely to feel positively about identifying with the term."
The report also urges McLaren and his colleagues to run a social media campaign and to "write blogs for online trade association magazines and websites".
It concludes: "Judging from the engagement work that the Scottish Parliament has done so far, it appears to be firmly on the right track."