Learning Lessons? The Registration of Lobbyists at the Scottish Parliament: A reply to Coldwell



Dinan W (2006) Learning Lessons? The Registration of Lobbyists at the Scottish Parliament: A reply to Coldwell. Journal of Communication Management, 10 (1), pp. 55-66.

Purpose - The Scottish Parliament was founded on principles of openness and accessibility and signalled the potential for a new style of politics after devolution. In the aftermath of allegations of political sleaze early in the life of the new institution, the Standards Committee of the Scottish Parliament conducted an inquiry into the registration of lobbyists. This process attracted much comment and criticism from public affairs practitioners and the Scottish media. Based on original empirical research, numerous interviews and first‐hand observation, the purpose of this paper is to offer a response to some of these criticisms. Design/methodology/approach - The research reported here is based upon extended fieldwork and observation of the developing lobbying industry around the new Scottish Parliament, spanning the period from late 1998 until summer 2003. It involved some 73 interviews with various corporate and voluntary sector lobbyists, public servants and elected representatives. It also draws on participant observation at more than 70 official, public and private meetings for those involved in public affairs in Scotland. In addition, the paper monitored the popular and specialist media in Scotland for news and analyses of issues relating to lobbying at the new Parliament, undertook focus group research to test public opinion on the issue of registration, designed and administered an e‐mail survey of public servants in the USA and Canada charged with maintaining registers of lobbyists and conducted archival research at the Scottish Executive's library at Saughton House in Edinburgh. Findings - The paper suggests the efforts by parliamentarians to regulate their relations with lobbyists need to be grounded in principles that apply to all outside interests seeking to influence the democratic process. Originality/value - The paper challenges the assertions that lobbying is misunderstood by elected representatives and that the lobbying industry is entirely committed to increasing transparency.

Lobbying; Public Relations; Communication; Politics; Parliament; Scotland

Journal of Communication Management: Volume 10, Issue 1

Publication date31/12/2006

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Dr William Dinan

Dr William Dinan

Senior Lecturer, Communications, Media and Culture