'She will not be lobbying' - Tulchan defends Ruth Davidson MSP hire after backlash

Tulchan chief executive Andrew Grant has defended the agency's appointment of former Scottish Conservative Party leader and current MSP Ruth Davidson, saying she will not be involved in any lobbying.

Ruth Davidson: controversial appointment
Ruth Davidson: controversial appointment

Her appointment as a senior advisor has met with heavy criticism, with the PRCA saying it is "simply wrong for lobbying agencies to employ legislators" and one rival MSP labelling it a "disgrace".

Grant said in a statement to PRWeek: "Tulchan Communications is not a member of the PRCA and we do not share their views on this matter.

"We are fully aware of, and will be compliant with, the regulations surrounding the appointment and role of Ruth Davidson as a senior advisor to Tulchan. In this role it is specifically contracted that Ruth Davidson will neither be asked to, nor will, carry out any lobbying activities and that she will, in all things, act in accordance with her role as an MSP."

According to the Evening Standard, which ran an interview with Davidson on Wednesday, she will be paid £50,000 for 24 days’ work a year at the City of London-based agency. The newspaper said her connection to the job is Andrew Feldman, the former Conservative Party chairman who joined Tulchan as managing partner earlier this year.

Feldman 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."

Davidson 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."

The MSP for Edinburgh Central, who resigned as leader of the Scottish Conservatives in August, is due to step down from the Scottish Parliament in 2021.

PRCA director-general Francis Ingham said: "It is simply wrong for lobbying agencies to employ legislators. 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."

One political rival, SNP Minister for Europe, Migration & International Development Ben Macpherson, labelled the appointment "a disgrace".

Others in PR and journalism have also expressed opposition:

Davidson is widely credited with transforming the electoral fortunes of the Conservative Party in Scotland, leading it to win 13 Scottish seats in Westminster in the 2017 general election.

The politician cited "conflict over Brexit" and the desire to spend more time with her partner and young son as being among her reasons for resigning the party leadership north of the border.

In March, PRWeek reported that PR agency The Playbook had hired former minister and sitting MP Tracey Crouch. The Playbook said at the time that Crouch’s position has been approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), which advises on business appointments for former ministers.

More recently, The Guardian alleged that Owen Paterson MP had lobbied for firms he was paid to advise.

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