Calls to resign as MSP
Davidson in conflict of interest row over PR role
Ruth Davidson announcing her resignation as Tory leader (pic: Terry Murden)
Former Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson is at the centre of a conflict of interest dispute after she was appointed an adviser to a public relations and lobbying firm.
Ms Davidson, who resigned as Scottish Tory leader in August months after giving birth and amid concerns over the party’s Brexit policy, has joined London agency Tulchan Communications.
Tulchan represents a number of major companies, including drinks giant Diageo, construction firm Galliford Try and the insurer Prudential.
Ms Davidson will be paid £50,000 for 24 days work a year but will remain a member of the Scottish Parliament, representing Edinburgh Central until 2021.
Her dual role has drawn criticism from the Public Relations and Communications Association which said: “It is simply wrong for lobbying agencies to employ legislators.”
Francis Ingham, director general of the PRCA, said: “The possible conflict of interest in doing so is clear, and damages the reputation of both our industry, and of the political process.
“PRCA members are prohibited from employing parliamentarians – and with good reason. Unlike the vast majority of its competitors, Tulchan is not a PRCA member. But in the public interest, we would nonetheless urge them to reconsider this appointment.”
Ruth Davidson’s actions bring the Scottish Parliament into disrepute– Neil Findlay, Scottish Labour
Scottish Labour and the SNP called for Ms Davidson to resign as an MSP.
Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay is putting forward a Member’s Bill at the Scottish Parliament which will stop MSPs from having a second job.
“Ruth Davidson’s actions bring the Scottish Parliament into disrepute,” he said.
“Instead of standing up for her constituents in parliament she will be standing up for the firms that her bosses are paid to lobby for.
“You cannot be a parliamentarian and a highly paid lobbyist at the same time.If she wants to continue pocketing tens of thousands of pounds from this lobbying firm she should resign as an MSP.
“The people of Edinburgh deserve an MSP that will represent them, not private corporations.”
SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald said: “This is a monumental misjudgement from Ruth Davidson, who simply cannot be allowed to accept cash from a lobbying firm while continuing to sit as an MSP.
“That’s not only a conflict of interest – it’s holding her constituents, and the Scottish Parliament as a whole, in contempt.
“Ruth Davidson needs to decide which day job matters. If she isn’t interested in focusing on her role as an MSP she should allow the people of Edinburgh Central to pick a representative who is.
I have no doubt that our clients will benefit immensely from her insight and unique perspective on the rapidly developing evolving relationship between business and politics– Lord Feldman, Tulchan
“If she is brazen enough to continue sitting as an MSP, then the questions and pressure on her will simply continue to pile up.”
Tulchan’s managing partner is top Tory fundraiser and former Conservative Party chairman Lord (Andrew) Feldman, described as David Cameron’s oldest political friend and who created him a life peer.
He said: “I have no doubt that our clients will benefit immensely from her insight and unique perspective on the rapidly developing evolving relationship between business and politics and the need to navigate the shifting demands of a broader range of stakeholders.”
The appointment represents another step in Ms Davidson’s rapidly changing circumstances. She has rebuilt the Tory Party in Scotland and until recently spoke of her ambitions to become Scotland’s first Tory First Minister. She was even tipped as a potential Prime Minister.
Her new role will see her more closely aligned with Britain’s corporate sector. She said she believes capitalism needs something of a ‘re-think’ and Tulchan says she will be instrumental to its efforts in helping boards navigate “a continually evolving public and corporate landscape”.
She said: “I am very excited to be joining Tulchan at such a critical time for UK PLC. I believe the evolution of Tulchan’s mission statement towards creating stakeholder value is prescient. Political and economic uncertainty persists and the scope for shocks is high.
“As a result, businesses must continue to renew their licence to operate with their stakeholders and reflect on what is expected of them or risk being targeted by anti-business vested interests and losing public faith.”
Tulchan is a top 40 UK and public affairs agency in terms of operating margin and has played a key role in some of the UK’s biggest M&A and restructuring deals. It advised Comcast on its bid for Sky; Unilever on its new legal structure; Whitbread on the sale of Costa to the Coca-Cola Company; and Chanel on its first consolidated results.