Caledonia Consulting is a public affairs and communications firm in Edinburgh which is run by Devin Scobie. Scobie used to work for the public affairs company GPC International (involved in the Derek Draper affair). He attracted some controversy because he was simultaneously (until January 2008) the director of the Scottish Parliament Business Exchange, a venture set up in the Scottish Parliament with the stated purpose of educating MSPs and business about each other. It states that it is 'non-lobbying' and yet many of those associated with it (including Scobie) were/are professional lobbyists. This apparent conflict in the operations of the Exchange led to an inquiry into its activities by the Standards Committee of the Scottish Parliament.
The Sunday Herald reported:
- A report by the Standards Committee criticised the exchange and described its lack of legal accountability to Parliament as "unacceptable". Around £100,000 of public money was also given to the organisation. However,the Sunday Herald can reveal that the relaunched SPBE has failed to address the key problem raised by its critics, namely its closeness to Scotland's lobbying fraternity.
- Scobie,the managing director of Caledonia Consulting, is in charge of the exchange on an interim basis following the departure of Ann Mearns. Caledonia's website offers clients a fixed fee charge for its services, such as £2000 for a "political audit". His internet blurb also states his team is "well-known" to MSPs.
- But the appointment appears to jar with one of the key principles of the exchange, which is that the organisation must be"non-lobbying"in nature. Several MSPs sit on SPBE's board of directors, and presiding officer Alex Fergusson is listed as its honorary president. SNP MSP Alex Neil said : "I think there has to be a clear statement from the Exchange, making it clear that the new interim director cannot use his position to further his lobbying interests."
- "I don't really consider myself a lobbyist, I consider myself a business consultant," said Scobie. "The clients that I work with want to understand how parliament operates,they want to understand how the committees are set up. It's not a case of saying, Devin, get closer to MSP X or Y'."
Also at Caledonia was another member of the SPBE, Lynda Gauld a former lobbyist for Pfizer. This controversy is compounded by the fact that Caledonia has hired two former MSPs. One, David Davidson of the Conservative Party, was also connected with the SPBE while elected as an MSP. The other is Mike Watson (Lord Watson of Invergowrie), a former Labour Scottish Executive cabinet minister who was imprisoned for 'fire raising' after he set alight the curtains at an Edinburgh hotel during a Scottish political awards event.
Caledonia are not members of the UK trade body the Association of Professional Political Consultants but are members of the Scottish equivalent, the Association for Scottish Public Affairs
Read more about Caledonia Consulting: People
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