Association for Scottish Public Affairs
The Association for Scottish Public Affairs (ASPA) was founded in 1998 to represent the interests of lobbyists with the creation of the Scottish Parliament. Membership of ASPA is predominantly drawn from the commercial sector, with many PR consultancies and legal practices with public affairs / lobbying division playing a leading role in the organisation.
Alan Boyd, the first convenor of ASPA, was clear that the organisation should act to resist democratic scrutiny and regulation of lobbying. He stated:
- We can allow the parliament to regulate our own affairs [or] we get our act together and write a code which will allow us to regulate on our own... There is a golden opportunity for us to influence the CSG. We should go for it in a big way and operate as a professional body.
In 2008, ASPA convenor John Macgill spoke to The Scotsman about ASPA and his role as an "inhabitant of the ornate hallways of Holyrood". Macgill commented:
- We have a code of behaviour and a set of guiding principles... We don't pretend to be something that we are not. Our approach is to make sure the right people meet the right people with the most appropriate messages... It boils down to having a clear set of ground rules, which are about understanding that the politicians you are dealing with have a lot of people knocking on their door. You need to be clear that they know who you are representing... We don't seek any special privileges that anybody else does not have. We are absolutely against members holding passes to the Parliament. If we go there, we go as visitors, like anybody else. We have always been clear that members should expect no privilege, in terms of access or the time of MSPs, that is different from their constituent... I am not saying lobbyists through history have always been very well behaved, but when you try to regulate lobbyists, the issue is you are sending out a message that you don't trust the politicians.
In their official response to the original PASC lobbying inquiry in 2009, ASPA raises several points of concern. The main issues highlighted are:
- We are concerned at the lack of representation for PA professionals beyond the consultancy sector, including in-house people and those working in the non-commercial sectors. ASPA is a pan-industry body and represents both in-house and consultancy professionals and we do not believe the working party is representative of the entire industry.
- We should not divide the industry with a two-tier system of regulation which affects consultancies but does not extend to other parts of the industry.
- There should be no distinction between consultancy and in-house professionals in any registration scheme - it should apply to both or neither.
- We do not believe multi-clients firms should be required to disclose their fees or salary details as this information is commercially confidential.
- The PAC must retain a degree of independence to have any credibility as a regulator and so we agree with the proposal for an independent chair and members, but we would like more detail on this.
Following the Dispatches/Sunday Times exposé of 'Politicians for Hire' in March 2010, the current ASPA convenor Alastair Ross was asked to comment on proposals for a statutory register. Of Labour's reaction, he remarked that "It is knee-jerk and misses the point – a statutory register wouldn’t stop MPs such as Byers", adding:
- Any parliament or government system needs its policymakers to develop legislation based on the best information and evidence that can be provided for them – on that basis alone the PA industry is an essential part of the democratic process.
- Julia Clarke
- In 1999, Maureen Ferrier was a member the Association of Scottish Public Affairs, writing to the press on its behalf.
ASPA Committee 2009-10
- Convenor Alastair Ross of McGrigors
- Treasurer John Macgill of Morhamburn
- Secretary Gordon Robertson of BAA
- Angela Casey of CM Porter Novelli
- Lindsay Scott of Age Concern and Help the Aged Scotland
- Alasdair Rankin of Metropublic
- Stuart Crawford of Stuart Crawford Associates
- Claire Munro of Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA)
- Neil Freshwater of Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS Scotland)
Advocates for Animals | Age Concern and Help the Aged Scotland | Association for the Conservation of Energy | BAA Scotland | BAE Systems Surface Ships | Babcock Marine | Baccus Consulting | BIA | Breakthrough Breast Cancer | Buccleuch Group | Signature | Cancer Research UK | Caledonia Consulting | CBI Scotland | Chartered Society of Physiotherapy | Children 1st | Citizens Advice Scotland | CM Porter Novelli | Double Scotch | DLA Piper | Electoral Reform Society | Epilepsy Scotland | Federation of Small Businesses Scotland | Fleishman Hillard | Friends of the Earth | Grayling Political Strategy | GSK | Institution of Civil Engineers in Scotland | John Taylor | Lloyds Banking Group | Mandate | Media House | Metropublic | McGrigors Public Policy | Morhamburn | National Deaf Children's Society | NESTA | Office of Fair Trading | The Open University in Scotland | Pagoda Public Relations | Pfizer | Platform PR | Playfair Walker | Royal College of Nursing | Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists | Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh | Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in Scotland | Royal National Institute for the Deaf | Scottish Council of Jewish Communities | Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations | Scottish Federation of Housing Associations | Scottish Financial Enterprise | Scottish Renewables Forum | Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition | Selex | Signature CACDP | Shelter Scotland | Stuart Crawford Associates | 3X1 | Unison | University of Aberdeen | Virgin Trains | Wave PR
Contact, Resources, Notes
Address: Alastair Ross, ASPA Convenor
McGrigors Public Policy
1 Earl Grey Street
Tel: 0131 777 7144
- ASPA minutes, April 1998
- Christopher Mackie, "Winning friends and influencing people in the corridors of power", The Scotsman, 27.11.08
- ASPA, "Response from the Association for Scottish Public Affairs", accessed 06.09.10
- PAN Staff, "[pointer=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=1135&tx_ttnews[backPid]=2&cHash=6d7db0b470 Dispatches/Sunday Times exposé – industry reaction]", Public Affairs News, accessed 06.09.10
- 'Soundbites', The Sunday Herald June 6, 1999 SECTION: Pg. 4
- ASPA, "Committee", accessed 06.09.10
- ASPA, "ASPA Members", accessed 06.09.10