Top lobbyists have called for the system to be changed in Scotland

After an exclusive investigation by The Ferret and The Herald revealed hundreds of secret meetings were held by the SNP Government and wealthy individuals and influential organisations last year. 

Analysis of Scottish Government ministers’ engagements in 2020 showed numerous meetings were not included on the lobbying register. 

A special edition of The Brian Taylor podcast focused on the 'Who Runs Scotland?' investigation and the reality of lobbying in Scotland. 

Andy Maciver, co-founder and director of Message Matters, and James Mackenzie, former head of media for the Scottish Greens and freelance lobbyist, voiced their qualms with the current lobbying system. 

Speaking on the episode, Mr Mackenzie referred to the lobbying register as a "bandaid solution". 

READ MORE: SNP Government held hundreds of secret lobbying meetings in 2020

He said: "I don't think it is anywhere near transparent enough. I don't think it can be fixed either.

"For some of my entries I am meeting opposition MSPs to brief them of why Government is supporting or licencing environmental damage and then I have to register that and the topic needs to go on the register. So actually if that publishes very quickly and there isn't a lag with it, you could end up tipping off the Government on how to avoid PR disasters or to avoid being held accountable."

The environmental lobbyist called for Government Ministers to minute all of their meetings and publish them "within a week or ten days". 

He clarified that this should apply to any meeting where "someone is trying to influence policy". 

Andy Maciver, who was named at the top of our list of professional lobbyists in Scotland, addressed the misconception of lobbying being done by "big oil and big tobacco" with "brown envelopes". 

"But it's not real. The reality is that this Government and the Ministers under this Government are amongst the most egalitarian ministers I've ever come across," he said. 

"You don't need to be rich or powerful or a massive corporation to get time with a minister." 

READ MORE: Scotland's top lobbyists who most frequently met with Government revealed

Speaking of what needs to be changed about the lobbying system, Mr Maciver turned to the exemptions from the lobbying register. 

Current exemptions mean that meetings that took place by phone do not need to appear in the lobbying register. 

He added: "If we close the exemptions, we open up a lot more transparency in it. What I want to see is a situation where people start to understand what we do is relatively dull, normal work."

You can listen to the full podcast on Spotify, Apple or Acast.

If you want to catch up with our investigation into 'Who Runs Scotland?', you can find a full list of all our exclusive stories HERE