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Change of plan

Davidson backtracks on PR role over ‘second job’ furore

Ruth Davidson at women's conf

Ruth Davidson: ‘I saw this role as an opportunity to help businesses’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Ruth Davidson has decided against taking up a new role as an adviser to PR company Tulchan Communications.

The former Scottish Tory leader prompted criticism from those opposed to MSPs having second jobs and said that taking up a role advising firms on public affairs would be a conflict of interest.

In a statement today she said: “The debate in Scotland about my taking an advisory role with Tulchan Communications has become increasingly contentious.

“I, and Tulchan, have therefore agreed not to proceed with the appointment.

“I saw this role as an opportunity to help businesses improve their offerings to staff, raise standards in the supply chain, increase diversity and embrace environmental responsibilities.

“I sat down with Scottish Parliamentary officials in advance to go through the code of conduct, in detail, in order to avoid any conflict and to ensure I would be working within the rules at all times. The role reflected this.

“The consensus view from political opponents and commentators is that working to improve businesses’ understanding of the cares and concerns of people is somehow incompatible with my role as an MSP.

“So if I am asked to choose between Holyrood and this role, then I choose the parliament I have dedicated the last nine years to, eight as party leader, a decision Tulchan supports. 

“I would like to thank Tulchan for asking me to take on the role.

“They are an advisory firm of the highest quality and they too have received their share of criticism, which this role and their intentions did not deserve.

“Throughout this process they have behaved with the utmost integrity and have shown me every support and understanding.

Scotland, and the people of Edinburgh Central are lucky to have her

– Andrews Grant, Tulchan

“I wish them continued success in the future and will be sorry not to be working with them at this time.”

Andrew Grant, senior partner, Tulchan said:“We share Ruth’s decision not proceed with her role with us.

“It is a great shame as we believe that she would have encouraged business to be bolder in addressing the issues of concern to their stakeholders.

“Scotland, and the people of Edinburgh Central are lucky to have her.”

The decision was welcomed by Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay who has raised a bill aiming to stop MSPs holding second jobs.

He said:  “After a week of refusing to budge, Ruth Davidson has finally reflected on the widespread anger which has been expressed across the Parliament and among the public at large. This is to be welcomed.

Neil Findlay

Neil Findlay: ‘the rules need to change’ (pic: Terry Murden)

“There is a clear conflict of interest in an elected representative working for a company which lobbies politicians on behalf of corporate interests.

“In accepting this job in the first place, Davidson did lasting damage to the reputation of the Scottish Parliament. She receives a generous salary from the public purse, and seeking to trouser £50,000 for just 24 days a year gives a strong impression of politicians on the make.

“If it is true that the parliamentary authorities approved Davidson’s job with a lobbying firm, then it just demonstrates that the rules are not fit for purpose. I am seeking to introduce a law which will ban MSPs from taking second jobs.

“I hope that this sorry saga will lead MSPs from across the political spectrum to realise that the rules need to change, and to support my bill in Parliament.”

 SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald said: “Ruth Davidson has made this decision only under severe pressure – and questions over her judgement, and her commitment to her constituents, remain.  

“Ruth Davidson must outline what advice she was given on how her role could have possibly been in line with the MSP Code of Conduct.

“We also need to know whether Ms Davidson has met with any Tulchan clients, performed any work for the organisation or given Tulchan any advice – formally or informally – that must now be declared.

“And – crucially – we need to know whether Ruth Davidson has had any discussions about a future role in the lobbying industry.

“If the decision not to take the job was accompanied with a nod-and-a-wink about work after 2021 then there will remain serious concerns about the ability of Ms Davidson to perform her work as a parliamentarian.”

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