Platform: A brave new world for those with heart - A new Scottish parliament means rich pickings for lobbyists and PR agencies willing to dedicate the proper resources, says Ken Newton

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 devolution dividend.

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

devolution dividend.



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

parliament (MSPs).



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

business.



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

reform.



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

home.



Ken Newton is a partner of Hamilton-based PR agency Budge Newton.



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