With the devolution referendum campaign already a fading memory and
with little more than 500 days to go before elections for a Scottish
parliament, Scotland’s PR industry must now prepare to reap the
Some of our first cousins in the public affairs business have already
made early inroads into the Scottish scene, but the communications
challenge will go far beyond lobbying the 129 members of the Scottish
The groundswell of interest in Scottish constitutional reform from
around the globe and within the UK has served to raise the country’s
profile and stresses to PR decision-makers the need to treat Scotland
now, more than ever, as a distinct entity in PR terms.
The promise of an Edinburgh parliament, coming on top of already
separate legal and educational systems, reinforces the point that you
won’t get your message across without a dedicated PR presence.
From a corporate affairs standpoint, Scotland is highly networkable,
with organisation including the Institute of Directors, CBI Scotland and
the Scottish Council Development and Industry providing a ready platform
for companies and public bodies to position themselves. But networking
must take place from within and cannot happen remotely.
In media relations terms, too, local knowledge is essential. Too often,
PR operators outside Scotland approach quality national newspapers such
at the Herald or the Scotsman in the same blanket fashion as local
weeklies and sometimes find the only coverage they get is a deservedly
snide remark in the diary column.
The PR dividend will be that the parliament itself and its new civil
servants will need to be presented and explained to their target
audiences - a potential vein of yet more work for the consultancy
Inevitably, the Scottish parliament will want to reshape and reform the
many quangos and statutory bodies which report to it. This could create
two channels of opportunity for PR and public affairs consultants -
firstly, helping these bodies position themselves positively with their
governmental masters and secondly, relaunching the bodies which undergo
Some Scottish PR firms have already twinned with London-based public
affairs firms, while one or two lobbying firms have opened green-field
offices in Edinburgh. Public affairs work has so far been thin on the
ground, but following the double-yes verdict given by the Scots to a new
parliament with tax-varying powers, momentum will pick up.
In the first instance, organisations, both private and public, which the
new parliament is set to impact upon will begin lobbying politicians and
civil servants on the shape of the Scotland Bill which will go before
the Westminster Parliament in November.
I believe Scottish devolution can be mirrored by a PR devolution which
sees a move towards campaigns that grant more autonomy to those with the
local skills, knowledge and client base to drive the client’s message
Ken Newton is a partner of Hamilton-based PR agency Budge Newton.