SCVO recently held an event for members with Billy McLaren, the new Lobbying Registrar at the Scottish Parliament.
He expects to release guidance on the Lobbying (Scotland) Act in the spring and for the Lobbying Register to be operating by autumn.
If you are a third sector organisation that will need to register (to find out if you are, check my blog), there are some practical things you should be thinking about now.
1. How are you going to track the information that you need to put on the register?
Nearly all paid employee face-to-face and video interactions with MSPs will have to go on, so think about what systems your organisation will need to make sure you capture those.
2. Who is going to be in charge of the returns?
Do you want to have one person who collects information from everyone in your organisation, and then submits that to the register? Or do you want to rely on individuals to submit returns for their own activity?
3. How will you make sure you have sufficient, but not burdensome, information to go on your returns?
Billy was keen to stress that the register should produce meaningful content for the public (who will have free access to it), but, equally, no-one is expecting screeds of writing as to the content of your meeting – a clear and honest sentence or two will most likely suffice.
4. Will you need to provide education to staff as regards the Act, and, if so, to which staff?
It is worth thinking widely here, as it won’t just be policy or public affairs staff who may need to be covered – Chief Execs, service managers, events staff to name just a few, might all undertake actions defined as ‘regulated lobbying’ in the Act.
5. Does your Board know about the Act?
Whilst the implementation measures you take as a result of the Act are unlikely to be a matter for the Board, it is perhaps worth keeping them up-to-date – if only to reassure them that, as volunteers, their interactions with MSPs will never need to be registered.
There are of course many more areas to cover, so look out for the guidance in spring to keep you up-to-date. In the meantime, do get in touch with Billy’s team at the Scottish Parliament or myself here at SCVO if you have any questions.