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SNP’s growth for Scotland depends on the lobbying industry

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Issue 2520
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon (Pic: First Minister of Scotland Flickr)

The Scottish National Party (SNP)’s vision for Scotland includes much corporate lobbying.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last week that former MSP Andrew Wilson would head a Growth Commission. It’s a listening project but who gets heard may be predictable.

A former economist, Wilson is the managing partner of Charlotte Street Partners. (CSP). It is a secretive and influential firm with close ties to the SNP and the financial sector.

CSP calls itself “a strategic communications company”, helping businesses engage with “policymakers, politicians and regulators”.

Past clients include Cluff Natural Resources, which wanted to burn coal under the Firth of Forth to release methane. CSP has also lobbied for Irn Bru maker AG Barr, whose drinks will be hit by the new sugar tax, and mobile phone mast firm Wireless Infrastructure Group.


However, CSP is not a member of the Association of Professional Political Consultants or Chartered Institute of Public Relations, both of which operate voluntary client registers.

CSP does not volunteer its clients, which means the public would not know if Wilson had conflicts of interest when developing potential government policy.

Wilson, former communications chief for RBS, co-founded CSP with Malcolm Robertson, son of Labour peer Lord George Robertson, in 2014.

The company’s chairman is financier Sir Angus Grossart, chair of the government’s infrastructure investment body the Scottish Futures Trust and former vice chair of RBS.

Former SNP spin doctor chief Kevin Pringle also became a partner last year.

CSP has organised a dinner discussion with Nicola Sturgeon, and wined and dined her special adviser on energy and enterprise, Malcolm Fleming, as well as the government’s head of policy, Colin McAllister.

Lobbying has taken off now the revolving doors between business and politics are spinning fast.

French state to train Muslims in Islam

The French state doesn’t just ban Muslims from following their religion in the “wrong way”. It’s now also training them to do it the “right way”.

The Foundation for an Islam of France was launched last week, to provide training for Imams and fundraising for mosques from within France—so that less of it comes from abroad.

It’s part-funded by the oh-so secular French state, and partly by private donors. The biggest so far is arms tycoon and Tory senator Serge Dassault.

In charge is left nationalist politician Jean?Pierre Chevenement. His pearls of wisdom include telling Muslims to be “discreet” and fearing that “one nationality—the French working class—is disappearing” due to immigration.

But he reassured anyone who thought he was unqualified to be president of Islam in France.

“I know the Muslim world very well,” he explained. “I went to Cairo and Algiers 40 or 50 years ago.”

Care UK says prison self-harm is exciting

Troublemaker favourite Care UK talks of the “exciting life of prison medical staff”.

Dr Sarah Bromley, Care UK’s national medical director for health in justice, said in a staff recruitment video, “If you like life to be exciting, there are always alarm bells going off, resuscitations, self-harming incidents, a lot of chaos that goes on in our prisons.”

Care UK provides healthcare in 30 prisons in England and Wales, including some of the biggest.

Last month a coroner said “significant failures” by Care UK had contributed to the death of prisoner Terence Adams at Pentonville jail in London.

The coroner also said a report compiled by Care UK after the death was not shared with the coroner’s office until it was accidentally discovered by lawyers during the inquest.

Having completed a round of redundances the Guardian newspaper has finally been able to unveil new semi-secret sofas. 

They have been locked in a basement for months because they cost £36,000 and it would look bad to sack people while wheeling out plush couches.

But after the job cuts is apparently fine.

What is it with Owen Smith and Big Pharma lobbyists? Fresh from hiring Pfizer PR guru Jon Lehal as his chief of operations, Owen Smith has taken on a former AstraZeneca lobbyist as his director of communications. 

Will Tanner was until recently the head of Finsbury PR’s UK public affairs team, where he proudly boasted of his work for top pharmaceutical companies.

Howe’s he get away with it?

Lord Howe, Tory defence minister and deputy leader of the House of Lords, is hosting a tour of his house this weekend.

He received a tax break worth millions of pounds when he inherited his £30 million country estate.

A conditional exemption agreement with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) gives tax breaks in return for public access to the land. The details of that are a little vague.

But Howe’s ancestral home, an 18th century red-brick mansion called Penn House, is open two days a year under another tax avoidance agreement.

Howe got tax relief on more than 70 works of art and artefacts at the house, including paintings, dining chairs, and a pair of marble “snarling lions”.

Troublemaker suggests ringing to book a place on 014 9471 3358.

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