The Scottish Government has been accused of “exploiting loopholes” in lobbying laws after we revealed of hundreds of meetings went unrecorded.

In the first part of our week-long Who Runs Scotland investigation with The Ferret, we told how hundreds of meetings between Scottish ministers and multinationals, wealthy individuals and other influential organisations were left off the lobbying register in 2020 due to loopholes in legislation.

Analysis of Scottish Government ministers’ engagements in 2020 shows that meetings, potentially of key public interest, were not in the register, including those between ministers and companies awarded multi-million pound UK and Scottish contracts to supply the NHS in the run-up to Covid-19.  

As these meetings took place by phone they did not fall under regulated lobbying rules, an exemption which means they don’t need to appear on the lobbying register. 

Scottish Labour business manager Neil Bibby said the legislation should be “looked at”.

He said: “These reports raise serious questions about whether Scotland’s lobbying laws are fit for purpose.

“With countless key meetings going unrecorded, it is clear that the SNP are exploiting loopholes to avoid scrutiny.

“These shameless attempts to undermine the spirit of the lobbying act are all too typical from a government constantly avoiding any and all transparency.

“The laws need to be looked at, but legislation can only do so much as long as there is this culture of sleaze and secrecy at the heart of the SNP.”

Scottish Tory chief whip Stephen Kerr also said the “gaps” should be addressed “as a matter of urgency”.

“These revelations raise serious concerns about the loopholes that currently exist within current legislation,” he said.

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“That is leading to a significant number of critical meetings between SNP government ministers and officials and influential organisations to go completely unregistered.

“This also flies in the face of the SNP’s commitment to be an open and transparent government. It is all too typical of their attitude in looking at all ways to avoid public scrutiny on their actions or who they are dealing with.

“These meetings must be recorded and documented otherwise this only raises questions for SNP ministers about what they are hiding from the public.

“These gaps in current lobbying regulations must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“That will help to guarantee there is full transparency surrounding these meetings, so the public are fully aware of the lobbying that is occurring of the SNP government.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is committed to transparency and all ministerial engagements are recorded and published, including meetings held via phone calls.

“It is the responsibility of those who lobby to consider whether any engagement they have with lobbyees should be registered.

"If there is any uncertainty concerning the need to register, definitive guidance should be sought directly from the Scottish Parliament lobbying register team.”

Read Day 1 from our exclusive 'Who Runs Scotland?' investigation: