Scotland on the move: Harnessing policy and economic opportunities

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Join leading Scottish integrated public affairs, PR and design agency, Orbit, in partnership with the Scottish Council for Development & Industry (SCDI) and PubAffairs, at a breakfast seminar in London on Monday 9th July.

The session will address questions such as:

• What is the current climate for investment in Scotland?
• What impact will policy divergence between Scotland and the rest of the UK have on Scotland’s economic performance now and in the future?
• What role will the Scottish Government have in post-Brexit UK trade policy, and what are the implications for export-dependent industries such as food & drink, manufacturing, and financial services?
• What needs to be done to improve prospects for economic growth in Scotland?
• What impact will the recently-published Growth Commission report have on the Scottish economy, the wider Scottish policy debate, and businesses operating in Scotland?


  • Graeme Downie (Director, Orbit) has 15 years of public affairs experience, primarily in Scotland, but also with clients operating in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Brussels. Graeme has experience advising clients in sectors such as food & drink, culture, housing and higher and further education.
  • Lord Andrew Dunlop (Board Member, SCDI) is a former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at both the Scotland office and Northern Ireland Office.
  • Sally Trethewie (Account Director, Orbit) is a strategic communications specialist with private sector, government, academic, and non-government organisation (NGO) experience. She relocated to Edinburgh last year after nearly 10 years in Singapore, where she worked in public affairs an international communications agency and for the Australian government.

Event details:
Date: Monday 9 July 2018
Time: 8am (7.30am for breakfast rolls, coffee and networking) and finishing no later than 9.30am
Venue: Ellwood & Attfield (34 Smith Square, SW1P 3HL)

For more information and to RSVP visit:
Continue reading “Scotland on the move: Harnessing policy and economic opportunities”

Cabinet reshuffle delivers casualties as well as new blood as axe is wielded


It was what one commentator quipped, the ‘Day of the Long Sgian Dubhs*’, parodying PM Harold Macmillan’s infamous “Night of the Long Knives” reshuffle of 1962, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took the axe to her Scottish Government Cabinet.

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Alex Orr is Managing Director of Orbit

In what was the bloodiest and most sweeping reshuffle of devolution as she changed half her Cabinet, including close friend and beleaguered health secretary, Shona Robison, who has been the focus of much criticism over her handling of the NHS.

There was no accident of course in the timing, with paper headlines dominated by the reshuffle rather than the controversial Education Bill, which had been set on ice and minds set to the allure of summer holidays.

It was a case of out with the old and in with the new, and the dramatic clear out saw the departure of three Cabinet Secretaries and three ministers and the promotion of five new faces to an expanded top tier of government. This now sees 12 Cabinet Secretaries, an increase of two, reflecting the bigger workload arising from Brexit as well as ensuring the crucial running of the £300 million social security system.

In addition to Shona Robison, Keith Brown leaves his role as Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, to focus on his recently elected SNP Deputy Leader post, associated with policy development and building the case for independence. Angela Constance has also left as Cabinet for Communities, Social Securities and Equalities.

There are five new faces joining the Cabinet: Shirley Anne-Sommerville, formerly Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science becomes Social Security and Older People Secretary; Aileen Campbell, formerly Minister for Public Health and Sport becomes Communities and Local Government Secretary; former Labour Special Adviser, Jeane Freeman, who was Minister for Social Security, becomes Health and Sport Secretary following widely applauded work on Scotland’s new Social Security system. Humza Yousaf, formerly Minister for Transport and the Islands becomes Justice Secretary, replacing Michael Matheson, who had come under some criticism of his handling of Police Scotland controversies. Mr Matheson becomes Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Secretary.

Derek Mackay, who formerly held the Finance and the Constitution portfolio has seen the Constitution aspect pass to Brexit Minister, Michael Russell in a new role as Government Business and Constitutional Relations Secretary. Mr Mackay has seen his role take on the Economy and Fair work responsibilities held by Keith Brown in a role as Finance, Economy and Fair Work Secretary.

John Swinney remains as Education and Skills Secretary, as well as being Deputy First Minister; Fergus Ewing remains as Rural Economy Secretary, Fiona Hyslop as Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Secretary, and Roseanna Cunningham as Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Secretary.

Full Cabinet:

  • First Minister – Nicola Sturgeon
  • Education and Skills Secretary (and Deputy First Minister) – John Swinney
  • Justice Secretary – Humza Yousaf
  • Health and Sport Secretary – Jeane Freeman
  • Social Security and Older People Secretary – Shirley-Anne Somerville
  • Communities and Local Government Secretary- Aileen Campbell
  • Finance, Economy and Fair Work Secretary – Derek Mackay
  • Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Secretary- Michael Matheson
  • Rural Economy Secretary – Fergus Ewing
  • Government Business and Constitutional Relations Secretary – Michael Russell
  • Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Secretary – Fiona Hyslop
  • Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform – Roseanna Cunningham

Ministerial appointments

Some changes to Ministerial appointments were announced, with the rest expected later today, today but we already know that Alasdair Allan, Annabelle Ewing and Maureen Watt have left their positions as Ministers for International Development and Europe; Community Safety and Legal Affairs, and Mental health respectively.

  • Kevin Stewart will remain in post as Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning and Joe FitzPatrick will become Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing.
  •  Maree Todd who was appointed Minister for Children and Young People in October last year will remain in her post.
  • Paul Wheelhouse will take on a new role of Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands – reporting to the new Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity.
  • Jamie Hepburn will take on the new role of Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, reporting jointly to the Education Secretary and the new Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work


Ms Sturgeon can hardly be described as being ruthless, but her Cabinet reshuffle was built on an understanding that there required to be dramatic action if the Scottish Government was to maintain some credibility in tackling the challenges the nation faces, particularly around health and education. In these areas in particular it has been seen to be struggling and improvement is needed.

While the Bute House door opened for some and closed for others, it is important to note that the problems still remain and the proof of the pudding will be to see how the new Cabinet and ministers deal with these. The First Minister has demonstrated that she is no slouch in wielding the axe if required.

What the First Minister has delivered is a team she believes are up to the challenge and which she hopes to keep in place until the 2021 election, when the SNP will be seeking re-election for a fourth term, as well as delivering a mandate for a second independence referendum. A tall order indeed!

*A ‘sgian dubh’ is a small, single-edged knife (Scottish Gaelic: sgian) worn as part of traditional Scottish Highland dress along with the kilt.

So bad it’s good

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Kiera Winfield
Kiera Winfield, Designer

Didn’t we take an oath to stand for beauty and order? Now ugly is the new cool, and beauty takes a backseat. Gradients, drop shadows, overlapping illegible type and random compositions are all commonplace. How did we arrive here and how do we design our way around this post-ironic landscape?

Maybe the biggest example of ugly design is Wolff Olins’ 2012 London Olympic branding which was infamously controversial. The design studio used the term ‘prescribed anarchy’ to describe their thinking behind the identity. Nwokorie, the lead creative, has said: “The critical reviews tend to point out the rules we’ve broken, and in that sense, they tend to be correct; the only disagreement is whether those rules need to be broken.”

Those rules were drawn up by early design pioneers in the 19th century and were rooted in objective communicating – ‘form follows function’ has been the designer war cry. It’s fair to say though Wolff Olins were not the first, so when did ugly design really make its debut? A strong case can be made for the 70’s punk scene that saw a new expression of anarchistic youth tear up Helvetica golden ratio grids. Defying the establishment and challenging the norm, it was a direct reaction to the rigid restrictions of modernism.

So then maybe this ‘so bad it’s good’ zeitgeist is another reaction to our current social and political culture? The advent of the internet has brought about a post-truth political climate which has only been exacerbated by the media coverage of the recent US presidential election and Brexit. Perhaps this emotional disconnect has led us to a second wave of punk, only this time with nostalgia for the 80’s and 90’s aesthetic we love to hate.

This ugly trend is likely to be only a knee-jerk reaction and the rules are not being rewritten. However, like Saul Bass said best “I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares, as opposed to ugly things. That’s my intent.”

Green-fingered Hanover Scotland resident receives funding award to help his garden grow

A 75-year-old man who transformed a small disused patio area at his North Lanarkshire sheltered housing complex into a garden has been awarded funding from Gardening for Disabled Trust.

Green-fingered Phil Salina, who has lived at Hanover Scotland’s Baillie Court in Motherwell for over 10 years, has received £300 to help him continue to grow his prized fruit and vegetable patch.

Mr Salina only started the garden six years ago after he and another resident decided to make use of an empty patio space outside their housing complex. Since then the space has been transformed into a garden producing a variety of fruit and vegetables. Mr Salina regularly sets up a table of his healthy produce in Baillie Court’s communal living area for his neighbours to enjoy and only asks for a small donation to help towards the cost of containers, compost and seeds.

While this has helped him to cultivate a selection of delicious and healthy products, it recently became clear that extra funding would be needed to help him continue to grow the garden. The funding he has received from Gardening for Disabled Trust has made this possible and will allow him to purchase vital gardening equipment and a greater variety of seeds and bulbs.

The funding from Gardening for Disabled Trust was awarded in recognition of the benefits reaped from Mr Salina’s horticulture project by both him and other residents at his Hanover Scotland sheltered housing development. The exercise and mental stimulation from his gardening work helps to alleviate his symptoms of arthritis, while the distribution of his freshly grown fruit and vegetables to Baillie Court residents mean that the positive impacts of his gardening project are felt by others around him.

Mr Salina said: “Gardening has been a great way for me to pass my time while helping to keep me active. I am very grateful to Gardening for Disabled Trust for their funding as it will allow me to buy much needed supplies to continue growing my garden.”

Sharon McLean, Hanover Scotland’s Baillie Court development manager, said: “Over the last six years Mr Salina has transformed the space into a flourishing garden, growing fruit and vegetables for everyone at Baillie Court to enjoy. This well-deserved funding from Gardening for Disabled Trust is testament to the benefits his project brings to both his own health and to other residents at the development.”

Justine Stringer from Gardening for Disabled Trust, said: “As a tiny, volunteer-only organisation that gives away everything raised, Gardening for Disabled Trust is delighted to help Mr Salina keep actively gardening. Our ongoing work aims to raise more money to help more people like Mr Salina.”