Code of Conduct for MSPs - Volume 2, Section 4: Paid Advocacy

4.1: The statutory requirements

Section 14, Prohibition of paid advocacy etc.

(1) A member shall not by any means, in consideration of any payment or benefit in kind––

(a) advocate or initiate any cause or matter on behalf of any person; or

(b) urge any other member to advocate or initiate any cause or matter on behalf of any person.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)—

(a) “any means” shall be construed as the doing of anything by a member in the capacity of a member, whether or not in any proceedings of the Parliament; and

(b) “any payment or benefit in kind” means any payment or benefit in kind––

(i) which the member receives and which may reasonably be considered, after taking into account all the circumstances, to result in some benefit to that member, other than a vote for that member in any election to the Parliament; or

(ii) which the member’s spouse, civil partner or cohabitant receives and which may reasonably be considered, after taking into account all the circumstances, to be provided in connection with the Parliamentary duties of the member and to result in some benefit to that member.

(3) Subsection (1) shall not prevent a member receiving assistance in connection with any of the following matters––

(a) the preparation of a Member’s Bill or of any amendment to a Bill, or any other matter relating to a Bill (whether before, during or after its passage in the Parliament and before it is submitted for Royal Assent); or

(b) a debate upon subordinate legislation (whether before or after its making); or

(c) a legislative consent motion.

4.1.1 Paid advocacy is not permitted.

4.1.2 Section 14 of the Act sets out both what constitutes paid advocacy and is, therefore, forbidden and what assistance to a member is permitted.

4.1.3 Unlike the provisions of the Act relating to the registration and declaration of interests (which are designed to ensure transparency and do not inhibit members’ participation in the proceedings of the Parliament), the provisions of the Act relating to paid advocacy provide that a member may not, in consideration of any payment or benefit in kind, advocate or initiate any cause, or matter, on behalf of any person or urge any other member to advocate or initiate any cause, or matter, on behalf of any person.

4.1.4 ”Any payment or benefit in kind” means any payment or benefit in kind which the member receives and which may reasonably be considered to result in some benefit for that member (except a vote for that member in an election to the Parliament). This also includes any payments or benefit in kind which the member’s spouse, civil partner or cohabitant receives and which may reasonably be considered to be provided in connection with the Parliamentary duties of that member and to benefit that member in some way.

4.1.5 Section 14(3) of the Act describes the kinds of assistance which members may receive without being in breach of the paid advocacy provisions. Those provisions do not apply to assistance provided to a member in the preparation of a Member’s Bill, or assistance with amendments to any Bill, or a debate on subordinate legislation or a legislative consent motion (formerly known as a Sewel motion).

4.2 Sanctions and offences for failure to comply with the rule on paid advocacy

4.2.1 Failure to comply with the paid advocacy rule may result in the Parliament excluding a member from proceedings for such period as it considers appropriate (section 16 of the Act). A member may also be guilty of a criminal offence in terms of section 17 of the Act. A member found guilty of such an offence is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.