Avid readers of Irvine Welsh’s books might be forgiven for thinking
that certain parts of Scotland had fallen into a nightmare of urban
Although, like almost everywhere, it has its inner city social problems
and seamier sides, for the most part times are good right now.
Last year’s massive vote in favour of devolution has created a buzz of
expectancy, while the underlying economy appears in more than reasonable
shape. At the same time, Scotland remains an attractive proposition for
inward investment. In 1996/7, Locate in Scotland helped attract 86
inward investment projects worth an estimated pounds 3.1 billion and the
prospects for further significant inward investment are still
’The underlying factors behind Scotland’s success in inward investment
will remain and probably strengthen as a result of devolution,’ says
Countrywide Porter Novelli Scotland managing director Chris Lansdell.
’One of the main attractions for companies is that land is cheap. We’ve
got a land mass roughly the same size as England with a tenth of the
people living on it. We also have a stable and well-educated
In fact, Scotland produces the highest number of graduates per capita in
the EU - worldwide only Norway and the US does better. There are 13
universities, nine specialist higher education institutions and 46
further education colleges. This has resulted in a good labour pool from
which companies can draw.
’One sector that has burgeoned, particularly in the west of Scotland, is
call centres,’ says Nevin McGhee managing director of Barkers Scotland
and chairman of the Scottish consultancies association the SPRCA. ’They
have taken off in the last year. A lot of companies have set them up
here because research shows they can get the right sort of people in
this part of the world.’
Another reason for this is that many have financial services
Scotland actually ranks third in the EU, behind London and Paris (but
ahead of Frankfurt) in terms of international funds under
A new pounds 400 million financial district known as the Exchange is
being created in Edinburgh, near the Edinburgh International Conference
Developer EICC has retained Shandwick to create awareness of the
The retail sector, often an accurate barometer of the health of an
economy as a whole, is also performing well. Mary-Jo Devlin, director of
retail PR specialist Spence Allan Associates is optimistic in the short
to medium term.
’In general terms, one can look at the retail developments going ahead
in Scotland including Buchanan Galleries, which will see John Lewis make
its Glasgow debut, the planned expansion of Princes Square in the city
and the forthcoming multi-million pound Ocean Terminal development in
Edinburgh to conclude that confidence remains very high in the Scottish
retail sector,’ she says.
One question that retailers, and some companies in other industries in
Scotland, have been addressing is one of national identity now that
nationalism is at the top of the agenda.
Safeway, for instance, is perceived as a Scottish company - even though
its headquarters are in Middlesex - as many of its key personnel, such
as CEO David Wright, are Scottish. However, it currently sources about
pounds 500 million of produce from Scottish suppliers and is looking to
increase the amount.
The conundrum for companies, such as Safeway, is how best to promote
their commitment to Scotland without damaging their reputation
’You don’t want to do anything to alienate other parts of the UK,’ says
Safeway Scotland public affairs manager Cameron Walker.
Walker, who is also chairman of the IPR Scotland Group, says that
membership of the organisation has been growing at a rate of ten per
cent a year.
He believes such confidence in the marketplace will create more
opportunities for PR professionals.
’The PR industry in Scotland is not booming, but it’s growing,’ he
’There’s a general feeling that it will grow further in the next five
years with the emergence of the Scottish Parliament.’
McGhee agrees: ’The year seems to be getting off to a hell of a flyer.
There seem to be a lot of new business opportunities out there and also
existing clients are doing more.’
Beattie Media managing director Gordon Beattie claims that January 1998
was the consultancy’s best ever month, with fee income climbing by ten
per cent. Much of this is from new business, and among the wins in
January were three ’property-related’ accounts - perhaps another
indicator of the vigour of the Scottish economy at present.
Beattie, which has offices serving Glasgow and Edinburgh, opened a
Dundee office around 18 months ago. Staff numbers there have risen from
one to four, and encouraged by this success, the consultancy intends
opening an Aberdeen office this spring. There are also plans to open in
Leeds and there is alreadya small London office.
’I’m convinced of the business case for opening a network of offices
throughout the UK,’ says Beattie. ’I’d say the Scottish economy is
really booming right now and more and more Scottish companies are
broadening their horizons.’
There are not that many independent agencies of any size in
The few that there are have been approached by English agencies without
a presence north of the border.
David Southern, head of group communications at Carnegie Public
Relations - part of Murray International Holdings - says his consultancy
has received several recent approaches from companies looking to forge
Now that the location of the Scottish parliament has been fixed and the
date of its first elections settled, there is no escaping the devolution
issue. While to the public, devolution is mainly about greater
self-determination, many companies are showing a determination of their
own to profit from the creation of another political environment.
’We’re seeing much greater effort from agencies that would historically
have positioned themselves as PR companies or management consultancies
to provide a package that includes political relations,’ says Strategy
in Scotland managing director Robbie MacDuff.
’At the moment, one sees in the marketplace a number of new public
affairs companies springing up, some of them little more than brass
plate operations,’ adds Lansdell.
Such comments evoke images of Sassenach carpetbaggers, trying to pass
themselves off as Scots in the hope of milking opportunities arising
from the new parliament.
Maybe Irvine Welsh will write a book on the subject and call it
ABERDEEN: POURING OIL ON OFF-SHORE TROUBLES
In its role as Europe’s unofficial oil capital, Aberdeen employs the
lion’s share of Britain’s 30,000 off-shore oil and gas workers. A
further 300,000 people at over 5,000 companies spread throughout the
country work in onshore jobs, supporting and servicing construction,
operations and other needs.
According to the UK Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA), expenditure
offshore since 1991 has averaged out at pounds 10 billion per annum,
split between exploration, development and maintenance costs.
’It’s fair to say that the level of activity in the North Sea is very
high at the moment,’ says Aberdeen Press and Journal energy
correspondent Jeremy Cresswell. ’But I’d hesitate to call it a boom
because oil prices are only a fraction of what they were during the boom
of the early 1980s.’
Low oil prices have forced the industry to find ways of keeping costs
down. The introduction of the Cost Reduction Initiative for the New Era
(CRINE) has helped reduce the cost of capital projects while new
technology has enabled companies to exploit smaller pockets of oil that
were previously uneconomic.
Lobbying is going on to convince the Treasury not to increase the level
of tax on oil, which is currently one of the most favourable rates in
the world. The Offshore Contractors Association, supported by Shandwick,
leads the way.
Other major areas of communication for the in-house teams and external
advisers are internal communications, the environment and community
’The offshore part of our business is the showcase,’ says Andy Mitchell,
public affairs adviser at Amerada Hess, the third-largest producer of
North Sea oil. ’We often arrange visits for politicians, the media and
Memories of the Piper Alpha disaster a decade ago, in which 167 people
lost their lives, remain clear. Communication of safety information to
staff is now considered vital. Lorna Anderson, director of agency High
Profile, says a ’huge amount’ of her work involves using newsletters to
send safety messages offshore. Grant White, account director at Citigate
Scotland, says lessons learned are being passed on to the rest of the
’The thing about the UK oil industry is that it’s no longer just serving
the North Sea.’The expertise that has grown up in the North Sea is
Other key issues facing the offshore industry include the further
development of the ’Atlantic Margin’ west of Shetland, which is
staunchly opposed by some environmental groups, and the difficulty in
attracting top-notch graduates into an industry which has a poor public
CYBER CONNECTIONS: HI-TECH GROWTH IN SILICON GLEN
In December 1997, Scottish Enterprise announced that Cadence Design
Systems of San Jose, California was to establish its next generation
’system on chip’ design plant at Livingston, creating 1,895 jobs over
Cadence is just the latest in a long line of hi-tech companies to settle
in Scotland, forming what has been dubbed the ’Silicon Glen’. According
to Locate in Scotland, the electronics industry today accounts for 24
per cent of manufacturing GDP. About 39,000 people are directly employed
in the industry with another 28,000 employed indirectly.
Semi-conductor fabrication plants alone employ over 7,300 people and
Scotland has a 13 per cent share of European chip capacity (and over 50
per cent of British capacity). Scotland is home to five of the world’s
top eight computer manufacturers. It produces 32 per cent of branded PCs
in Europe, almost 80 per cent of Europe’s workstations and 65 per cent
of Europe’s ATMs.
On the back of Microsoft’s desire to expand its activity in Scotland,
its agency Text 100, recently opened an office there.
’Microsoft recognises that it is a very important market,’ says Text 100
country manager, Scotland, Sheila Kennedy. ’We’re hoping that some of
Text’s other clients will recognise that they should have more of a
Scottish focus in their business.’
There are over 500 software businesses in Scotland and plenty of
research being carried out. Edinburgh University is the UK’s leading
research centre into IT, and is in the world’s top ten research centres
in computer science.
Agencies handling hi-tech business in Scotland include: Scribe Marketing
and Communications, Carnegie PR, Beattie Media, Countrywide Porter
Novelli and Shandwick.
’The industry is booming, but that doesn’t mean the PR opportunities are
booming,’ says Lara Bayley, managing director of Scribe. ’A lot of these
(potential clients) are new companies which haven’t grown up on the
concept that there should be PR. You have to sell the concept of a
communications strategy to them.’
Scottish Enterprise has announced a long-term strategy for
commercialising the science and technology base. The Communication Group
Scotland has been appointed to handle the campaign, known as Technology
Ventures. The aim is to encourage closer ties between financiers,
academics and the IT industry. One of its first initiatives is the
Scottish Technology Fund, set up with the support of venture capitalist
3i to provide seed capital for commercialisation.
’It is an exciting time to be promoting commercialisation as the
technology scene in Scotland is growing rapidly,’ says Julie McGavery,
managing director of The Communication Group Scotland.
MEDIA: FEEDING A VERY DIFFERENT APPETITE FOR NEWS
There is a popular misconception south of the border that because
Scotland has roughly one tenth of the UK’s population, readership of
most UK ’national’ newspapers must be approximately ten per cent
This is far from the truth.
’The combined circulation of the English broadsheets in Scotland is less
than that of the Dundee Courier,’ says Countrywide Porter Novelli
Scotland managing director Chris Lansdell. ’There is an assumption that
good coverage in the London-based dailies will give you proportionate
coverage in Scotland. It won’t.’
Scots buy proportionately more weekly newspapers than anywhere else in
the UK. There is a strong regional loyalty among readers, which anyone
seeking to reach the whole of the country needs to bear in mind.
Although the Scotsman and the Herald lay claim to being national titles
their core markets are in Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively. While the
Dundee Courier (DC Thomson) and the Aberdeen Press & Journal (Daily
Mail) are often the papers of choice in and around Dundee and
In the tabloid market, British nationals have fared better in recent
years. The Scottish Daily Mail has quadrupled its circulation from
30,000 to 120,000, largely by assuming a more Scottish identity, while
the Sun has closed the gap on Mirror Group’s market leader the Daily
Scotland also has two highly regarded business magazines of its own,
both of which have a readership that includes many top business
CA Magazine, is published by the Institute of Chartered Accountants but
reaches beyond the purely financial; Scottish Business Insider is
In broadcast terms, the picture is one of consolidation. Scottish Media
group owns STV and Grampian (as well as the Herald and Glasgow Evening
Times). Scottish Independent Radio Holdings owns all of the larger ILR
stations, with the exception of Scot FM, which is in the hands of the
Independent Radio Group.
In the cable TV sector, meanwhile, competition is set to increase.
’Broadcast media in Scotland will grow fairly rapidly, especially with
the number of franchise applications put forward,’ says Medialink
Scotland consultant Clare Stephen. ’In the near future there may be up
to three times the TV stations in Scotland than there are now.’
The creation of the Scottish Parliament is also giving the news
organisations pause for thought. The BBC, for instance, has established
working parties to look at tackling post-devolution coverage.
There has even been talk of replacing the Six O’Clock News with a
programme edited and produced in Scotland, with input from network news
and current affairs.