I am a communications expert, strategic adviser, and award-winning writer who has worked at the highest levels of journalism and public relations. With strong contacts across Scottish and UK public life, in the media, and with policymakers, I can bring these skills and experience to assist individuals, companies and organisations in crafting and delivering their communications strategy.
I am a Member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and the Institute of Directors.
September 2017 - present
Strategic communications advice to individual and industry clients on a freelance basis, and media relations for corporate clients, campaigns and charities.
Consultancy work with leading PR and public affairs agencies; stakeholder engagement including public and private sector; copywriter and speechwriter for high-profile UK public figures; media and public affairs training; crisis communications; independent policy adviser; cross-party political campaigns and organisations; website design and digital communications; Herald newspaper columnist and current affairs commentary for BBC and STV; public speaking engagements; senior adviser to parliamentarians.
Scottish Labour Party
September 2016 - September 2017
Responsible for communications strategy, reporting directly to the leader. Chief-of-staff during election campaigns and strategic communications adviser to senior politicians including Jeremy Corbyn MP.
Line-manager for press and digital officers, responsible for media relations with the UK’s most senior journalists and editors, and the party’s lead on stakeholder engagement and public affairs. Responsible for all internal communication within the party and external communication with voters – including direct-to-consumer correspondence and brand creation and management. Liaison with the Leader of the Opposition Office, Parliamentary Labour Party, and senior party figures including Gordon Brown.
Editing of General Election manifesto, speech-writing including keynote conference addresses and scripts for First Minister’s Questions, forward-planning and event management, crisis communications and campaign strategies. Lead negotiator for broadcast debates, liaison with governments and parties during national emergencies, media training for politicians, and budget management. Responsibility for all press releases and digital output, including the party's website.
Scottish Daily Mail
November 2008 - September 2016
Most senior political writer for the Daily Mail newspaper in Scotland, reporting from the Scottish Parliament and the House of Commons. Responsibility for setting news agenda across the UK, with around 50 front page articles published every year. Member of the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists' Association and the UK Parliament Lobby. Reporting on: General Elections; Scottish Parliamentary elections; Scottish independence referendum; EU referendum; education; health; the economy; food and drink; housing; crime; transport; environment.
Interviews with the world’s most senior politicians, including Prime Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries, engagement with senior business leaders and decision-makers; editorial leader writing, commentary, public speaking engagements including CIPR, and political commentary for the BBC. Campaigns including: introduction of plastic bag charge; use of firearms on routine police patrols.
Scottish Press Awards: winner - political journalist of the year 2012; winner - scoop of the year 2017; winner - campaign of the year 2016; short-listed - political journalist of the year 2011 and 2013.
Secretary / Treasurer
Scottish Parliamentary Journalists' Association
December 2013 - August 2016
The SPJA represents print and broadcast journalists who work in the Scottish Parliament. This public role involved chairing events and press conferences with senior UK politicians including Sir John Major, Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and Ed Miliband. I fought to defend the working rights of journalists, helped to promote gender equality, and managed the finances and administration for the organisation.
Edinburgh Evening News
July 2004 - October 2008
Several senior roles including city council reporter, transport and environment reporter and health reporter. Reporting on local, national and international news. Opinion columns, radio commentary, travel features, restaurant reviews and feature articles including from Ethiopia with Save the Children. Scottish Press Awards: short-listed - scoop of the year 2007; short-listed - journalist team of the year 2006; short-listed - campaign of the year 2009.
Yorkshire Evening Press
September 1995 - April 1998
Community reporter for two villages, regular news reports and features. Weekly opinion column for younger audience.
2003 – 2004 Napier University: Postgraduate diploma: Journalism.
1998 – 2002 The University of Edinburgh: MA (Hons): Politics.
1996 – 1998 York Sixth Form College: A-Levels.
I was born and brought up in York, before moving to Edinburgh 20 years ago to study at university - and never leaving. My father is a retired Church of England minister, coalfield chaplain, youth worker and author, and my mother is a retired teacher. I live in Edinburgh with my wife Alanna and our demanding cat, Gizmo. I am an exasperated fan of York City FC, an enthusiastic fan of musical theatre, and an expert on the movie Back to the Future.
Institute of Directors
York City Supporters' Trust
Community trade union