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Ruth Davidson steps down from £50,000 PR role after outcry over potential conflict of interest

Ruth Davidson steps down from £50,000 PR role after outcry over potential conflict of interest
3 min read

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has stepped down from her new PR job just days after it was announced, following an outcry over possible conflict of interest with her job as an MSP.

Ms Davidson confirmed on Tuesday she will not continue in the £50,000 salary role of senior adviser to Tulchan Communications, saying the “consensus” from “political opponents and commentators” was that it was “somehow incompatible” with her role as an MSP.

Forced to choose between the PR job and being an MSP, Ms Davidson said she would choose being an MSP, although she highlighted that she had checked with Scottish Parliament officials regarding potential conflict of interest before agreeing to take the job.

The announcement of her second job has caused widespread concern, with the director of PR professional membership body the PRCA, Francis Ingham, saying it was “simply wrong for lobbying agencies to employ legislators”.

George McGregor, co-chair of the UK Public Affairs Board, said: “Ruth Davidson should stand down as an MSP if she wants to join the ranks of the public affairs industry,” adding, “The rules are there for a reason: to avoid any conflicts of interest both in perception and reality.”

Last week Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who has published a member’s bill that would ban MSPs from taking second jobs, lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for Ruth Davidson’s resignation from the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body.

Commenting on her decision not to go ahead with the controversial PR role, Davidson said: “The debate in Scotland about my taking an advisory role with Tulchan Communications has become increasingly contentious.

“I, and Tulchan, have therefore agreed not to proceed with the appointment.

“I saw this role as an opportunity to help businesses improve their offerings to staff, raise standards in the supply chain, increase diversity and embrace environmental responsibilities.

“I sat down with Scottish Parliamentary officials in advance to go through the code of conduct, in detail, in order to avoid any conflict and to ensure I would be working within the rules at all times.

“The role reflected this.

“The consensus view from political opponents and commentators is that working to improve businesses’ understanding of the cares and concerns of people is somehow incompatible with my role as an MSP.

“So if I am asked to choose between Holyrood and this role, then I choose the parliament I have dedicated the last nine years to, eight as party leader, a decision Tulchan supports. 

“I would like to thank Tulchan for asking me to take on the role.

“They are an advisory firm of the highest quality and they too have received their share of criticism, which this role and their intentions did not deserve.

“Throughout this process they have behaved with the utmost integrity and have shown me every support and understanding.

“I wish them continued success in the future and will be sorry not to be working with them at this time.”

Andrew Grant, senior partner at Tulchan Communications said: “We share Ruth’s decision not proceed with her role with us.

“It is a great shame as we believe that she would have encouraged business to be bolder in addressing the issues of concern to their stakeholders.

“Scotland, and the people of Edinburgh Central are lucky to have her.”

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