Ruth Davidson u-turns on £50,000 PR job amid pressure for her to quit as MSP

Ruth Davidson will not take up a £50,000-a-year role with a public relations firm, after she came under pressure to quit as an MSP.

Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 11:59 am
Ruth Davidson has decided against taking up a 50k PR job while remaining Edinburgh Central MSP.

The former leader of the Scottish Tories, has said she will not "proceed with the appointment" as a senior advisor to Tulchan Communications after days of controversy about the role.

The Edinburgh Central MSP, who is expected to quit the Scottish Parliament at the next election in 2021, had agreed to the 24-days-a-year job while remaining a politician and retaining a £63,000 salary.

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Ruth Davidson under fire for £50,000 role with lobbying firm

Her decision to take on the second job, attracted widespread criticism from politicians and from those within the public relations and lobbying industries, over a potential conflict of interest.

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Today, Ms Davidson 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."

She added: “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."

Andrew Grant, Senior Partner, Tulchan said the firm shared Ruth Davidson's decision not to take the role.

He added: “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.”

Last week industry body the Public Relations and Communications Association said there was a clear potential conflict of interest for the former party leader to hold her post with Tulchan and argued it was wrong for lobbying agencies to employ legislators.

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who is piloting a Member's Bill through Holyrood to prevent MSPs taking up lucrative second jobs, had demanded Ms Davidson reveal the advice she had been given by parliamentary authorities.

Today he welcomed her decision, but added: "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.”

And SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald said questions still remained over Ruth Davidson's "judgement, and her commitment to her constituents". He added: "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 she is to claw back any respect at all, Ruth Davidson must publish all material and advice she has received regarding this role."

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

It has also emerged that Ms Davidson set up a management consultancy called Kirkholm Broadlands Ltd with her partner Jen Wilson on October 14.