Copyright 2001 Scottish Media Newspapers Limited

The Sunday Herald

January 28, 2001


Inner lobby life

IAN Coldwell, Chairman of the Institute for Public Relations (IPR) in Scotland takes us to task for claiming that lobbyists are subterranean creatures (Reader's Views, January 21). He claims that all the lobbying trade associations have argued for openness and transparency in their dealings with the parliament. This is misleading. In fact every single lobbying and Public Relations trade body (including the IPR) argued against disclosure in their responses to the Standards Committee consultation on lobbying.

As things stand, lobbyists do not disclose what they do for their clients, nor how much they are paid. Members of the Association for Scottish Public Affairs and the body Coldwell represents (the Institute for Public Relations), do not even disclose who their clients are. The two bodies that do require clients to be revealed do not do so publicly. There is no information on their web-sites and nor is their register published. In our new book (Open Scotland?, Polygon, March 2001) we reveal the lengths to which lobbyists go to avoid public debate about their activities.

Coldwell finishes by suggesting that regulation to ensure openness by lobbyists will undermine openness and "actively dissuade" organisations from lobbying the parliament. This is a fine example of Orwellian newspeak, suggesting that openness can best be achieved by secrecy and non-disclosure.

The only way that lobbyists will disclose what they do is if they are required to do so.

David Miller, William Dinan and Philip Schlesinger

Media Research Institute

Stirling University