The 50 firms invited to wine and dine with Nicola Sturgeon
The Edinburgh public relations company, Charlotte Street Partners, hosted a lavish dinner a year ago enabling 50 of Scotland’s business leaders to talk to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, The Ferret has learnt.
The Scottish Government has released a programme for the three-course dinner with wine at the five-star Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh on 15 January 2015. Billed as an evening “in conversation” with Sturgeon, the guest list included the oil entrepreneur who wants to gasify coal under the Firth of Forth, Algy Cluff, and the chief executive of the Duke of Buccleuch’s estate, John Glenn.
Others invited were Sir John Elvidge, the Scottish Government’s former permanent secretary who is now chairman of Edinburgh Airport; Keith Miller, chief executive of the property business, The Miller Group; and Simon Thomson, chief executive of the oil firm, Cairn Energy.
Also on the guest list were senior representatives from the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Standard Life, KPMG, Deloitte, Kleinwort Benson, Aberdeen Asset Management, Tesco, SSE, Centrica, the Scotch Whisky Association, the water firm Highland Spring and the rail company Abellio UK. In addition, there were leading figures from media organisations, legal firms and Edinburgh’s festivals.
The dinner was addressed by one of Charlotte Street Partners’ senior managers, the former SNP MSP and shadow minister, Andrew Wilson. Other key figures from the PR company were also due to attend, including the merchant banker, Sir Angus Grossart, and the journalist, Chris Deerin.
Since the dinner took place, Charlotte Street Partners has hired Kevin Pringle, the SNP’s former strategic communication director. The PR company has also represented Cluff’s firm in its bid to start underground coal gasification in the Firth of Forth, and other businesses.
According to the Scottish Government, the dinner was part of a series of events hosted by Charlotte Street Partners in which political figures took part in “an after dinner question and answer session” with the broadcaster, Jim Naughtie, who has recently retired from BBC Radio Four’s Today programme. Others had involved John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, Lord Ashcroft, the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, and Jim Murphy, former leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
The programme for the dinner was released in response to a request under freedom of information law by the Labour MSP, Neil Findlay. He is campaigning to toughen up the bill to make political lobbying more transparent, currently under consideration by the Scottish Parliament.