Back to School


The Scottish Parliament will come back from its summer recess next week for a short 5-week session taking it up to half-term and the Party Conference season but what issues will we see dominate the political discourse after a typically frenetic summer.

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Graeme Downie, Director.

Although looming over everything in the UK at the moment, the issue of Brexit is unlikely to be at the forefront of a lot of MSPs mind when they come back to work.  Instead a few issues already widely trailed are likely to dominate and all of them in the policy areas of most concern to the public.

Prime amongst those will be transport with a battle for the political narrative already under way.  On railways, the Scottish Government is attempting to keep the focus on the future of the railways, with the announcement that public sector companies will be able to bid for the ScotRail franchise in 2025.  At the same time September is likely to see the role out of refurbished High Speed Trains (HSTs) on key city routes across the country.  Although not delivered by the Scottish Government expect Transport Minister, Michael Matheson to be prominent in the pictures and interviews.  One topic Mr. Matheson and his colleagues will not wish to discuss in those interviews will be the seeming U-turn regarding the merger of British Transport Police (BTP) with Police Scotland.  These proposals has been controversial in the past couple of years and opponents will point to the policy change as evidence of government more concerned with centralisation and symbolism that delivery meaningful change.

Second, education reforms are likely to rear their head with the parents of children just beginning their school lives realising that Primary 1 children will face tests (sorry “assessments” as the Scottish Government prefer) during their first year.  Education Minister, John Swinney, has already been taking to the airwaves, press and social media to emphasise the informal nature of the exercise.  But teachers representatives have expressed their concerns concerning the effective of these measures and there appears to be confusion amongst parents as to their rights, or not, to remove their children.

With other policy issues such as business rate reform, consumer protection, NHS waiting times, future supply of energy, health & social care financing likely to have their place in the sun, albeit for less time, it is hard to imagine a more challenging set of policy debates, particularly for the Scottish Government, in the run-up to the conference season.

For the SNP, the only party in Scotland to hold its main conference in the autumn, there will be other more deeply political issues to content with.  For the First Minister, this will primarily be focussed around the vexed issue of a second independence referendum.  Noises are growing within the rank and file for Nicola Sturgeon to at least develop a timetable or possible scenarios for a second vote, particularly as the uncertainty and potential risks of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit are being spelled out by the UK Government.  In addition, she must face the deeply personal issue of allegations of sexual abuse against her friend and mentor, former First Minister Alex Salmond.  Thus far, the First Minister has navigated both issues with her usual skill but, on the referendum in particular, it feels as though some more definitive path or direction may have to be set over the autumn.


Top five reasons to rebrand your business

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Today’s brand is a complex thing. Decades ago it was defined as a name, slogan, sign or symbol, or a combination of these elements used to distinguish one product or service from another.

In today’s market, a brand can often get confused with a logo, but this is only part of a brand.

When you think about your brand, you really want to think about your entire customer experience… everything from your logo, your website, your social media experiences, the way you answer the phone, to the way your customers experience your staff. It is the sum of all touch points that come into contact with current or potential customers.

In short, your brand is the way your customer perceives you.

It is therefore really important to make sure that your brand is relevant. With trends constantly evolving, it’s important that your brand stands out in your competitive marketplace and communicates who you are as a business.

Sooner or later there will come a time when you’re brand needs a bit of attention. This can seem a daunting task but it can be a rewarding process that delivers significant commercial benefits.

Recognising when the time is right to rebrand your business or product may seem difficult, but in the life of a business various moments arise that lend themselves very well to a change, or even necessitate one.

Here are five reasons why now would be a good time to look at your brand.

1. To reinvigorate your image

Rebranding is a conscious decision to improve your reputation and image. Dated branding does nothing to instil confidence in your business and it is widely recognisable that a well branded product adds value. Apple is a prime example of this, where people buy into the brand.

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2. A merger or take-over of a company or organisation

This could mean a new name, a new logo, and a re-evaluation of all brand materials. This is where the benefits of using a full-service design agency are important – they can help you manage the whole project.

3. Change in Leadership

A new CEO will often want to breathe new life into an organisation. Successful leaders will have a clear direction in which they wish to take the company and will want to reflect this in its branding.

4. Repositioning

Rebranding can attract new audiences or become more appealing to their target market. Re-positioning a brand can help it differentiate and stand out in the market place and reflect your business as it changes. British Steel is a good example of re-positioning an iconic brand.

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5. Lack of Brand Clarity

A brand that has grown quickly or organically may not have taken the time to stop and consider its branding. Messaging can be inconsistent, messy and confusing to the consumer so visiting the brand and getting a strategy in place is essential

Heather Cumming, Senior Designer


FLIM FLAM 2 – Thank you from Orbit

Orbit would like to say a massive thanks to everyone that contributed to and attended out FLIM FLAM 2 exhibition on Friday.

As one of Scotland’s leading creative PR, public affairs and design agencies, we have a genuine passion for excellent art and design. At Orbit, we firmly believe in fostering creative talent, whatever that may be. Whether it is undertaking media relations or delivering a new brand or website, we bring this same creativity to everything we do. By hosting the work of our team and a range of leading artists and designers, we hope Gallery Flim Flam will stimulate and inspire that same drive for creativity and excellence in it’s attendees.

We are excited to announce that FLIM FLAM 3 will be curated by Orbit designers, Kiera Winfield and Kyle McPartlin.

Shout out to Orbit designer Kyle McPartlin, who not only created the FLIM FLAM 2 promo material but featured some of his own design work in the exhibition. Congratulations to our creative director John Ayscough and senior designer Heather Cumming who also featured art work in the exhibition.


CIPR Pride Awards agency nomination for Orbit

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The shortlist for the CIPR Pride awards – the leading regional PR awards – have been revealed for 2018 via twitter @CIPR_awards.

We are thrilled to be shortlisted in 5 categories: Outstanding PR Consultancy, Arts, Culture or Sport Campaign, Not-for-Profit Campaign, Public Affairs Campaign and Corporate and Business Communications Campaign.

A big congratulations to our extremely hard working team and to all of the nominees! A special thanks to our brilliant clients. We are proud to have made the cut and look forward to finding out the results at The Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa on Thursday 4th November.



Flim Flam 2: Another Fine Mess

Orbit is pleased to announce the launch of FLIM FLAM 2. Another Fine Mess, the second in our regular series of art and design exhibitions. Artist and Orbit creative director, John Ayscough, and illustrator, Marco Bevilacqua of Want Some Studio and organiser of Pissed Modernism, have assembled the work of 20 artists from across the UK and further afield, all motivated and inspired by political themes and contemporary campaigns for equality and social justice.

Sloganistic, poetic, funny or simply direct, the contribution of each artist, be they mid career or just starting out, offers a considered impression of contemporary British society. Featuring a multitude of mediums encompassing painting, sculpture, photography, graphic art, film, installation, performance and public art, this exhibition will focus our attention on the concerns and preoccupations of today’s Britain, set against the backdrop of political division, social inequality and Brexit.

Join us for a glass of wine at Orbit’s offices at 4 Queen Street as we launch our second exhibition Another Fine Mess from 6pm on Friday 3rd August. As on of Scotland’s leading creative PR, public affairs and design agencies, we have a genuine passion for excellent art and design. Whether it is undertaking media relations or delivering a new brand, we bring the same creativity to everything we do.

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.