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Transparency vital on lobbying issue

The proposed lobbying transparency register at Holyrood appears to be getting some of Edinburgh's professional lobbyists rather exercised (Fundamental flaws should kill this bill, Letters, January 6).

Late last year the SCVO denounced the rather modest proposals as "immoral" and the "biggest setback in equal opportunities the Scottish Parliament has ever seen". As a register would only apply to professional lobbyists, groups with dedicated lobbying staff, or those who hire lobbyists, it is hard to understand how the proposals will damage equal opportunities. It certainly won't apply to small community and voluntary organisations.

One commercial lobbyist proposes using the introduction of a transparency register to create a closed shop, with only accredited individuals licensed to lobby. The Association for Scottish Public Affairs rightly criticised the licence to practise idea, but warned that a lobbying register would nevertheless "signify a marked diminution of the principles of democracy in Scotland by restricting access to the political process". There is no evidence to support this claim.

Whenever lobbying disclosure is proposed the lobbying industry usually objects.

In those countries where such measures have been introduced, lobbyists' predictions of democratic disaster have notably failed to materialise. In fact, people quickly learn to live with lobbying transparency.

It is not a panacea, but if we are serious about holding politicians – and those trying to influence them – to account, then a lobbying register is needed.

Will Dinan


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