UK lobbying register exposed as "sham" as Scottish register racks up more registrants after one day

  • The new comprehensive Scottish lobbying register came into force on Monday 12 March

  • At the time of sending this press release, there were 205 registrants on the new Scottish lobbying register, compared with 152 registrants on the Westminster register

  • The campaign Unlock Democracy claims this has exposed the Westminster register as a "sham", arguing it is “beyond the realms of reason” that there are more lobbyists in Holyrood than in Westminster. They are urging for lobbying reform in Westminster, particularly in light over fears of a Brexit lobbying bonanza

Democracy campaigners have lambasted the Westminster lobbying register as a “sham” after registrants on the new Scottish lobbying register have soared passed the Westminster register after just a single day of being in force. They are now calling for Westminster to follow Scotland's suit with a renewed effort to bring greater transparency to lobbying with a comprehensive statutory register.

The 205 lobbyists signed up to Scotland's register has dwarfed the 152 organisations listed on the most up to date Westminster register. Unlock Democracy, which played a central role in supporting the passage of the original Lobbying (Scotland) Act 2016 with Neil Findlay MSP as part of the Scotland Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (SALT), has labelled it “beyond the realms of reason” to believe that there are more lobbyists operating in Holyrood than in Westminster. They are calling for Westminster to follow in Holyrood’s footsteps and crack-down down on lobbying with a new comprehensive statutory register for lobbyists.

Scotland’s new register covers a wide range of oral and face-to-face engagement between organisations and MSPs and senior government officials. Organisations have to register if they have communicated about Scottish Government or Scottish parliamentary functions, and are attempting to inform or influence policy decisions.

Despite having an estimated £2 billion lobbying industry, Westminster’s lobbying register is far more lax than the one that comes into force in Holyrood today. For example, the Westminster register only covers consultant lobbyists who lobby Ministers and Permanent Secretaries on behalf of third parties.

Unlock Democracy has long argued that the Westminster register is littered with loopholes and fails to capture anything meaningful about the vast majority of lobbying in Westminster.

Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy, commented: 

“It’s simply beyond the realms of reason to think that there are more lobbyists in Holyrood than in Westminster. The sizeable number of organisations that have - after just one day - signed up to the Scottish lobbying register has shone a light on how much lobbying the sham Westminster register is failing to capture. The UK government is failing to take action on improving lobbying transparency while lobbyists are free to operate under the cover of darkness.

“Despite there being a nearly £2 billion lobbying industry in the UK, the cash being splashed to influence policy and buy access to politicians is going largely unregulated and unmonitored. The antipathy from Westminster to bring lobbying out from the shadows is a cause for concern.

“We know that lobbyists are queuing up to cash in on the Brexit bonanza, and that makes the case for reform in Westminster all the more urgent. Lobbying firms and corporations have splashed huge sums employing former Special Adviser, civil servants and ex-ministers to grant themselves an inside track in the policy-making process. If Scotland can take action on lobbying, then so too can Westminster. Whether lobbyists want to make changes at a local or national level, they must be accountable to the public.”