Tulchan's hiring of Ruth Davidson does a disservice to our industry

I respect Andrew Grant. He runs a successful company, and in my dealings with him, he has always been a clever, insightful man who doesn't take himself too seriously.

But his appointment of a sitting MSP is an error of judgement that does a disservice to the reputation of our industry and to the reputation of politics. His understanding of the PRCA Public Affairs Code of Conduct is simply wrong.

Tulchan founder: 'Deeply conflicted' PRCA 'wrong' to criticise Ruth Davidson hire

The rules of the PRCA Public Affairs Code are clear, and apply to all members who conduct public affairs.

"Members must not: Employ any MP, MEP, Member of the House of Lords, or any member of the Scottish Parliament or the National Assembly for Wales or the Northern Ireland Assembly or the London Assembly to conduct public affairs in any capacity." The italics are mine.

It’s pretty straightforward - you can’t ever employ peers to do public affairs for you. So if you *only* do public affairs, you can’t employ peers. If your offering is wider than public affairs, you *can* employ peers, but they can’t ever do any lobbying work. 

Secondly:

"Members that are part of a group of companies are not in breach of the Public Affairs Code if the group (but not the member) employs any MP, MEP, Member of the House of Lords, or any member of the Scottish Parliament or the National Assembly for Wales or the Northern Ireland Assembly or the London Assembly in a role that prohibits the parliamentarian from carrying out public affairs services for the benefit of the member (and, if applicable, its clients). Members must ensure that they do not benefit unreasonably by actions of any third party that, if undertaken by the member, would be considered a breach of the Public Affairs Code."

In other words, if you’re part of a holding group, you can employ peers at group-level. But they can’t undertake any public affairs work. Again, it’s very straightforward.

The companies Andrew cites abide by these rules fully, and always have done. They don’t employ peers to do public affairs work in any capacity. That’s the whole point.

There is a clear difference between peers occupying internal advisory positions, removed from clients, and prohibited from public affairs work - and employing elected politicians working in client-facing roles. 

Tulchan’s clarification today that Ruth Davidson will not undertake any public affairs work is welcome, but sits awkwardly with their initial statement confirming they "have no doubt that our clients will benefit immensely from her insight". 

It remains our clear judgement that for a lobbying firm to appoint a currently sitting, elected MSP to a client-facing role is simply unconscionable. In fact, it is unthinkable. When I read of the appointment, my automatic presumption was that I had missed Ruth Davidson’s resignation as an MSP. I was not alone in this, and the vocal criticism this has drawn should lead both parties to reconsider the appointment.

Quite simply, Ruth Davidson should choose between being an MSP and being a lobbyist. She cannot be both.

Francis Ingham is director general of the PRCA

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