City spinners have become embroiled in a row over PR giant Tulchan’s appointment of former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson as a special adviser.
Tulchan Communications hired Davidson as a senior adviser two months after she stepped down as Scottish Tory leader.
She will keep her role as a member of the Scottish parliament until the 2021 Holyrood elections, when she plans to step down.
The move prompted criticism from lobbying bigwigs, who said it was “simply wrong” for firms to appoint a serving politician.
“The possible conflict of interest in doing so is clear, and damages the reputation of both our industry, and of the political process,” Francis Ingham, director general of the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), added.
Lobbying giant Cicero Group’s chair, Iain Anderson, also blasted Davidson’s decision to join Tulchan.
“There is no doubt Ruth Davidson has been an exceptional leader and is an inspiration – but Ruth you just can’t be a lobbyist and a legislator,” he said.
Ingham pointed out that “PRCA members are prohibited from employing parliamentarians – and with good reason”, adding that Tulchan is not a member.
“In the public interest, we would nonetheless urge them to reconsider this appointment,” he said.
Tulchan founder Andrew Grant hit back, telling City A.M. that PRCA was guilty of hyprocrisy, with some of its own members having appointed politicians as special advisers.
William Hague, now a Lord, became a senior adviser to PR agency Teneo after leaving politics in 2015.
Lord Myners, who serves as a crossbench peer after joining the House of Lords in 2008, is chair of Edelman’s Advisory Board., which provides advice to the firm’s UK management
Edelman’s chairman, Ed Williams, serves on the board of PRCA.
Meanwhile Tory peer James O’Shaughnessy rejoined Portland Communications over summer as a member of its advisory council.
Ruth Davidson is coming to us is because companies and boards now really have to understand the context in which they are operating.Tulchan founder Andrew Grant
Grant called the PRCA’s comments “completely hypocritical”, adding: “ I would urge the PRCA to reiterate its rules to its own members.”
“When we looked carefully at the rules the PRCA imposed, if we wanted to run our business in the way we wanted to run it we concluded we shouldn’t join it,” Grant said.
Tulchan used to be a member of the PRCA but left when it appointed former Tory party chairman Andrew Feldman as a special adviser.
“That would be a breach under PRCA rules,” Grant said.
Feldman – now a Lord – currently serves as Tulchan’s managing partner. At the time of Davidson’s appointment he said clients would “benefit immensely from her insight and unique perspective”.
Defending Davidson’s appointment, Grant told City A.M.: “She is coming to us is because companies and boards now really have to understand the context in which they are operating.
“Ruth has proved herself as very effective at understanding very disparate parts of society and bringing them together as a politician. It’s that understanding that we think boards would benefit from access to. That’s what this is about.
“It’s not about trying to change some regulation somewhere – we are not a lobbying firm and we have specifically excluded lobbying from anything we would ask Ruth to do.”
Davidson said of her appointment: “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.”
Main image credit: Getty