Actually, we agree with Jack Irvine (Letters, August 24) that there is a ''glaring inconsistency'' in the Standards Committee's proposals to register commercial lobbyists. There is no clear reason for registering commercial lobbyists and not their corporate equivalents. Mr Irvine is right to say that this would be unfair. Our evidence to the Standards Committee has called for all paid lobbyists to be registered, whether they work for commercial PR and lobbying firms, like Jack Irvine, or in-house for large multinational corporations.
Mr Irvine is also right to say that it is bad for democracy if small residents' groups and the like were forced to disclose their lobbying activities whereas large multinationals were not. If he had checked our submissions to the committee (available on parliament's website) he would have seen that we have proposed that the committee exclude any small group without the resources to hire or employ lobbyists from registration.
But Mr Irvine is disingenuous when he presents his PR company as primarily working for those without resources. His organisation, and the other PR and lobbying consultancies in Scotland, work mainly for large and wealthy organisations because they are the ones that can pay.
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The PR and lobbying industry is presently campaigning to deflect the Standards Committee from the task of ensuring openness in Scottish public life. Campaigners question the legality of the registration of lobbyists and maintain it is a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the right to privacy. The PR industry suggests that requiring openness is a breach of the civil liberties of multinational corporations. But civil liberties under the convention apply to individuals and not corporations. The right to privacy is also not an absolute right and may be breached in certain circumstances, including where it is in the national interest. Lobbying registration is intended to avoid undue influence on parliament and according to the Scottish Human Rights Centre, ''this could fall under the national interest criteria . . . and therefore would probably be deemed proportionate''.
Robert Armstrong of the Freight Transport Association (Letters, August 24) appears to misunderstand the nature of the proposed registration scheme. As he acknowledges, his association articulates ''views on behalf of a given sector of industry''. Where such activities involve contacting MSPs in order to influence legislation or encourage ''goodwill'', then their activities should be open and visible to all of the electorate. Mr Armstrong suggests that trade associations also engage in activities which have noting to do with lobbying. This is certainly true, but no-one has suggested that such activities would have to be disclosed.
We doubt Mr Irvine when he says that relationships between politicians and vested interests are of no interest to the Scottish public. On the contrary, being frank about such connections is a necessary antidote to the prevalent cynicism about politics.
Dr David Miller, William Dinan,
Professor Philip Schlesinger,
Stirling Media Research Institute,