Representational work is a key activity of any leading trade association. Sometimes referred to as lobbying, representational work for SELECT means putting forward the collective position of Members, generally to government, regulators, other opinion formers and the media. Its role is to inform, educate and hopefully influence, with the objective of reaching optimal policy decisions.
Now, in Scotland, certain representational work will be regulated. From 12 March 2018, the Lobbying (Scotland) Act 2016 required “regulated lobbying” to be recorded in a new lobbying register.
“Regulated lobbying” is lobbying that takes place face-to-face with MSPs, members of the Scottish Government, special advisers or the Permanent Secretary on matters which relate to Scottish Government or parliamentary functions.
SELECT is fully behind anything that supports transparency and openness and has already registered, but whether or not this latest initiative will add any value to legitimate campaigning remains open to question.
SELECT seldom engages directly with MSPs or ministers and tends to do most of its representational work with government officials, staff in regulatory agencies and civil servants, although ministers and MSPs occasionally invite input.
So any opportunity for the new requirements to provide an easier, or indeed worse, path to politicians or to deliver different outcomes seems limited, because what we do is largely not regulated lobbying.
More relevantly perhaps, will this new Holyrood focus on representation mean that the people we do lobby will be more open or listen a little more attentively?
Let’s hope so, because the recent predictable collapse of Carillion clearly shows only lip service has been paid to the frequent representations we, and many others, have made over the years about the dysfunctional nature of the business model of many large contractors. This is typified by their use of sub-contractors as de facto banks, with retention monies and due payments often being delayed or withheld.
Surely, in the wake of the Carillion, now is the time for action? SELECT and the Scottish Specialist Engineering Contractors Group recently met the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, and suggested a couple of easy ways to achieve this.
Our proposals were to ensure all retention payments are put into a protected trust fund and for the threshold for Project Bank Accounts to be reduced to £2 million. It was also proposed that all public sector procurers introduce a yellow/red card system to encourage lead contractors to pay their supply chains within 30 days.
The industry has been calling for fairness in the supply chain for a long time. Let’s hope our latest lobbying is now listened to.