How we investigate complaints about Lobbyists

Find out more about how we’ll investigate your complaint.

Who is a lobbyist? Toggle accordion

To be heard by parliament or government many people ‘lobby’.  A lobbyist is someone who speaks (either face to face or over an audio or video link) to an MSP, a Scottish Minister, a special adviser or a senior civil servant in the Scottish Government in order to influence government policy. 

Lobbyists must register with the Scottish Parliament.

There is more information about lobbying and registering on the lobbying pages of the Scottish Parliament’s website

What behaviour can we investigate? Toggle accordion

We can investigate complaints about a lobbyist who has not:

  1. registered with the Scottish Parliament
  2. provided accurate and complete information in their registration
  3. submitted a return detailing any lobbying undertaken
  4. supplied an accurate and complete response to a request by the Scottish Parliament for information about their lobbying.

Stage 1 – Assessment Toggle accordion

You can make your complaint online or in writing. We’ll write confirming receipt of your complaint and allocate the case to an Investigating Officer. We’ll also inform the person(s) you’ve complained about.

The Investigating Officer must decide whether or not your complaint is relevant and admissible. 

Your complaint must be:

  • in writing and signed, include your name and address, name the person(s) complained about and be made within one year of you becoming aware of the issue
  • about something we have the power to investigate (see the section above)
  • about a regulated lobbyist.

It must not be about activity that is exempt.

If your complaint is admissible, we’ll inform you, the person(s) complained about and the Scottish Parliament and begin an investigation.

We may decide your complaint is inadmissible. In this case, we’ll write to you, the person(s) complained about and the Scottish Parliament closing the case and giving our reasons.

If we need more information, we’ll write to you.  If we don’t receive a response within a set time, we’ll have to close your complaint. In serious cases, we may investigate and report to Parliament, even without the additional information.

The assessment stage should take no more than 2 months.  If it’s going to take longer, we’ll write to you, the person(s) complained about and the Parliament. 

Stage 2 – Investigation Toggle accordion

If your complaint is admissible, we’ll write to you to let you know we are investigating.  We’ll also write to:

  • the person(s) you’ve complained about. We’ll give them a copy of your complaint and ask for their response. 
  • the Scottish Parliament confirming that your complaint is being investigated.
  • if appropriate, any witnesses.

We may decide to interview people involved with the complaint.  Interviews are conducted informally. Anyone being interviewed can bring along another person for support. There are more details in our witness policy

Once the investigation is complete, we will review the findings and the Commissioner will decide whether or not she considers there has been a breach of the Lobbying Act.

Stage 3 – Decision Toggle accordion

Next, we’ll prepare a report about our investigation. 

If we find that there has been no breach, we’ll send the report to you, the person(s) complained about and the Scottish Parliament explaining this and giving our reasons. At this stage, the case is closed. The Commissioner’s decision is final, and there is no right of appeal.

If we find that there has been a breach, a draft copy of the report is provided to the person(s) complained about. This gives them a chance to check the facts in the report. Their comments will be included in the final report (even if the report itself isn’t changed). We’ll send the final report to the Scottish Parliament and the person(s) complained about.  

The Scottish Parliament will consider the results of our investigation and decide any further action.

Some serious breaches may be criminal offences. In these cases, we will pass the matter over to the police to investigate. 

Withdrawal of Complaints Toggle accordion

You may decide, at some point, to withdraw your complaint.  Your request has to be in writing and signed.

If we receive your request during the assessment stage, we will close the case. We’ll inform the person(s) complained about that the case is closed, giving the reasons.

If we receive your request during the investigation stage, we’ll inform the person(s) complained about and ask them if they think the investigation should continue. We’ll then decide whether to continue.

If we decide to close the case, we’ll confirm this to you and write to the person(s) complained about and the Scottish Parliament explaining that the complaint has been withdrawn, giving the reasons.

If we decide to continue our investigations, we’ll write to the Parliament advising that we’ve received a request to withdraw the complaint but recommending that we continue. The Parliament will decide whether we should proceed.