Brian Monteith

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Brian Monteith, born on January 8, 1958 is a Scottish politician, and former Public Relations professional, who was a member of the Scottish Parliament from 1999 until 2007. Educated at Portobello High School and Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, he worked in public relations before his election to the Scottish Parliament as a Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party member for the Mid Scotland and Fife region at the 1999 election. He is a former adviser to Sir Michael Forsyth. From 2007 he has been research director at the Policy Institute, a market fundamentalist think tank based inside the offices of The Scotsman newspaper.


In February 2008 Monteith was appointed policy director for The Free Society. On being appointed to this role he said:

"Over the last 30 years politicians and campaigners have increasingly sought to restrict our freedom in areas such as smoking, eating, drinking and other lifestyle choices. Today, the idea of a benign nanny state in which nanny tries to shape our lives in our ‘best’ interests is history. The nanny state has become the bully state". [1]

In 1998 the Scotsman gave this account of Monteith's career:

Monteith, 40, went to Portobello High School and then studied architecture at Heriot Watt, though he admits he was not in all the top classes at school and he did not complete his university course. The patchiness of his academic life was probably down to his extra-curricular interests. The most obvious was his political work as vice-president of his student union and later chairman of the colourful Federation of Conservative Students (after Forsyth). He was a contemporary of Jack McConnell (Labour, at Stirling University) and Charles Kennedy (Liberal Democrat, at Glasgow University). He also organised a successful campaign to take Heriot Watt out of the NUS.
...Monteith left university for London as a researcher for the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies, where he worked with John Redwood, among others. It was Forsyth who took him into public relations and he returned to Scotland to take up an eclectic client list which included projects for Labour and Liberal Democrat local authorities. He is a non-smoker who represents the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco in Scotland and says there was always something he found in all those projects to believe in - in this case, the right of choice. Monteith now describes PR as having been a diversion from politics -"my real vocation in life" - which also interfered with that calling in 1992 when he won the Tory nomination to take on the late John Smith in Monklands East, but felt compelled to resign it after his PR agency failed.[2]

Monteith's role in PR started 'in 1983, working for London lobbying firm Michael Forsyth Associates, founded by the last government's Scottish secretary, Michael Forsyth.'[3] In the mid 1980s he returned to Scotland and began working for the Edinburgh based PR firm Leith Communications.

According to a Herald profile in 1997:

Monteith has never gone out of his way to endear himself to that party establishment, nor did his background mark him out as a likely future Tory campaigner. He was born 39 years ago in "an honest, working-class home", the son of a fitter and a secretary, and brought up in East Edinburgh, just a goalkick away from Easter Road, home of Hibernian Football Club, one of the passions of his life. He had originally been lured by the Union Flag element of supporting Glasgow Rangers, but switched to the local team to the extent that he now chairs their shareholders' association. He attended Portobello High School, famous at the time as Scotland's biggest comprehensive, and went off to Heriot-Watt University to study architecture. There, he plunged headlong into student politics and, during a frenetic spell, emerged as one of the leading players in the hard-right coterie nicknamed the "Blue Trots" who seized control of the largely moribund Federation of Conservative Students. Mrs Thatcher had just swept to power in 1979 and these were her young disciples. Three Scots from this tendency became successive chair-men of the FCS - Peter Young, Tim Linacre, and Brian Monteith - and their tactics mirrored those of the far-left, packing meetings, organising slates, and commandeering funds.
At one stage Young opened a bank account in Aberdeen in the name of Mycroft Holmes (brother of the fictional detective) to run a slush fund to bankroll their attempt to break-up the National Union of Students by encouraging individual student associations to disaffiliate. The fact that this was not actually FCS policy at the time was overlooked. Monteith even managed to have himself elected to the chairmanship at an FCS conference for which he was not even properly accredited. Both Young and Monteith ended up being reprimanded by an investigating committee which referred to Monteith's "grave errors of judgment". The libertarian policies which the FCS began increasingly to support - including the scrapping of restrictions on drugs, abortion, and pornography - horrified the party hierarchy. At one stage the FCS at Strathclyde University formed the Heterosexual Decadence Club as a dig at political correctness. At an FCS conference in Peebles the then Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, detested for his opposition to capital punishment, faced boos and cries of "hang the bastard" by delegates waving nooses. Founded in 1931 by John Buchan, a virtual riot during an FCS conference at Loughborough in 1985 and a further spate of headlines finally gave Norman Tebbit the pretext to shut the organisation down.
Monteith had quit student politics by 1983, abandoning his plans for a career in architecture and joining Sir Alfred Sherman's Thatcherite think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies. He then turned to the new growth industry and entered into the world of politics - lobbying and public relations, joining Michael Forsyth's company in London and sharing a flat with the future Scottish Secretary. He retains a fanatical devotion to his mentor, a relationship reminiscent of that of Gordon Liddy to Richard Nixon. Loyalty, will, the determination to prevail, the sense of "can do", they are all there. Liddy would hold his hand over a candle and take the pain to prove he would do anything for his president, nor did he flinch when the cell door beckoned. You sense that for Forsyth, Monteith would do the same.[4]

FCS Role: the 'Blue Trot'

Monteith was reportedly 'Once known as "the Blue Trot"'[5] and played a strong role in the controversial Federation of Conservative Students. According to a report in the Guardian in 1988:

The influence of the FCS is most conspicuous in Scotland, where Brian Monteith, former national federation chairman, runs Leith Communications, a public relations company, with Stephen Morrison, once an FCS national committee member. Monteith was Scots YC chairman last year, and Morrison, also an Edinburgh councillor, is his successor. The pair work commercially for numerous constituency associations, and organised the successful anti-devolution campaign at the last Scottish Tory conference. Their agency - whose clients include the South African consul in Edinburgh - has reached a shortlist of four for a lucrative Scottish Office contract to popularise government policy north of the border. The political adviser to Malcolm Rifkind, the Scottish Secretary, is Graham Carter, another former FCS activist who stays in close touch with Morrison and Monteith.[6]
Returning to Scotland in 1986, Monteith founded his own company, Leith Communications, and soon won business from the Conservative Party, including the contract to produce a glossy magazine edited by the late Sir Nicholas Fairbairn. Under-capitalised and generously staffed, the company took a terrible hit when the recession began to bite and collapsed owing money, not just to the Tories but to Government departments, the BBC, and a series of printing and equipment hire firms. Monteith subsequently resigned as candidate for the late John Smith's Monklands East seat. It was a low ebb. In a parable of post-recession business life, Monteith bounced back as a consultant for a bigger PR company before launching out on his own again, this time on a heavily down-sized basis comprising himself and a rented desk. This is one of the reasons he felt able to make the decision to step into the breach and form the No-No campaign. He had no responsibilities to a staff, only to his clients.
He claims his continued unpopularity with elements of the current party hierarchy has less to do with his supposedly extreme views - which he claims have became mainstream as the agenda shifted. 'It was not my maverick nature, it was my Forsyth connections,' he says. "Let's be clear about this. Michael is the key. There is no point in denying it. Labour are glad he's not out there. He was the only guy they feared." In any event, he insists that his political views are actually quite hard to pin down. "I suppose I'm a queer fish, really. I'm right-wing in a free-market sense and I support capital punishment, but I'm not from the goose-stepping right and I am very much against racism and bigotry. I helped raise more than £100,000 for the Bangladeshi flooding appeal in the early nineties."[7]

In 1993 the Herald reported:

SEVERE turbulence among the Scottish Tories after their poor showing in the election of 1987 led to the resignation in 1989 of Sir Matthew Goodwin as Scottish party treasurer. This is disclosed in The Hollow Drum, a personal history of Scotland since the Second World War by Arnold Kemp, published this week. The book underlines the impatience with Scotland and Scottish Secretary Malcolm Rikfind felt by Mrs (now Lady) Thatcher, described in her memoirs published yesterday. She saw in her Scottish problems the beginning of her own political demise. The Hollow Drum also discloses that Mr Rifkind had an interview with Mrs Thatcher in 1990, during which he demanded the resignation of Mr Michael Forsyth as party chairman in Scotland.
Mr Forsyth had been appointed by Mrs Thatcher against Mr Rifkind's advice and had been given the mission to "Thatcherise" Scotland, even if he were opposed by the Tory Old Guard -- whose habits of consensualism were blamed for Tory difficulties north of the Border. A period of great internal stress followed and a broad-based Tory coalition emerged to smash Mr Forsyth's grip on the Scottish party. Eventually Lord Whitelaw and Lord Younger supported Mr Rifkind's growing conviction that Mr Forsyth's disloyalty to him as Secretary of State made the position untenable. All three made their feelings clear to Mrs Thatcher. But not until the Scottish Business Group, through the mediation of Lord Goold, had indicated that the tensions were affecting fund-raising did she finally accept Mr Forsyth's resignation from the chairmanship. She infuriated his opponents, and marked her displeasure with them, by simultaneously promoting him to Minister of State at the Scottish Office. He now has the same rank at the Department of Employment.
Sir Matthew, a leading Scottish industrialist and long-serving Tory loyalist, decided to stand down after Mr Forsyth failed to pass on to him a cheque, for £35,000. The cheque was the culmination of a fund-raising campaign led by the philanthropist Dr Alexander Stone with the assistance of Professor Ross Harper, both active in the party's voluntary wing. It was presented at a party in Dr Stone's house in Glasgow at which Mr Rifkind was guest of honour. Dr Stone regretted afterwards that he had been the cause of dissension, and had not given the cheque to the treasurer. Mr Forsyth stepped forward to accept it instead. He ignored several requests from Sir Matthew for the money. Instead he lodged it in a party petty-cash account in Edinburgh. Some of it was paid to a politically sympathetic PR agency, Leith Communications, which later became insolvent, to fund a campaign designed to by-pass the party establishment, in which Mrs Thatcher had lost confidence. Sir Matthew felt that the treatment of the cheque departed from standard party procedures, under which all donations are lodged with the treasurer. The "Forsyth Interregnum" was also marked by a purge of party workers and "wet" prospective candidates.[8]


Thatcher loyalist Monteith is founder and co-ordinator of Think Twice, set up to urge Scots to say No, No to their own Parliament with tax powers. Tory insiders are said to feel uncomfortable that someone with such a right-wing track record is centre stage in the No, No fight... Monteith now runs a one-man consultancy in Edinburgh, with the pro-smoking organisation FOREST among his clients.[9]

He was the leader of the unsuccessful Think Twice "No-No" campaign in the 1997 devolution referendum that led to the creation of the Scottish Parliament. After his election, Monteith developed a reputation as a Thatcherite right winger within the Conservative group. He argued in favour of giving more financial powers to the Scottish Parliament and wanted to move his party in a different direction ideologically and strategically. In July, 2005 he resigned as his party's Finance Spokesperson, saying that he wanted the freedom to discuss policy matters that "cut across other policy portfolios".

He then subsequently resigned from the party altogether and became an independent when it came to light that he had been briefing the media against the Scottish Conservative leader, David McLetchie and his ongoing problems surrounding coverage of alleged erroneous expenses claims from the public purse.[10]

In 2006 he announced he would not stand again as an MSP, saying he "would rather return to commerce than be a one-man band swimming against the treacly tide of collectivism in the Scottish Parliament". [11]

Monteith works with numerous charities and is the Honorary President of English-Speaking Union Scotland. He is actively pursuing a return to public relations and has had two stints working for the Botswanan government. Monteith writes regularly for many newspapers including an opinion column for the Edinburgh Evening News.

PR background

I SAT in on a selection panel choosing candidates to fight in the 2003 elections for the Scottish parliament. What a rum lot - both the candidates and the selectors. Most of these apprentice politicians serve in the lower ranks of Scotland's professions. I predicted I would be reading the biographies of a few youthful lawyers and accountants, but the biggest contingency was folk from marketing and PR. It seems Brian Monteith MSP is a sort of inspiration for them all. 48,000 pounds a year plus perks, all for very little effort. You need not even be encumbered by constituents.[12]


Against Social housing

One who does is Brian Monteith, the former Tory MSP and now research director of the Policy Institute think-tank. He says: ::"Public housing should be generally discouraged as a bad idea. How many private housing schemes do you see being pulled down only 30 years after being built because they are damp and deteriorating?
"People need shoes but we don't think the state should cobble them together. The sale of public housing to tenants in the 1980s and 1990s was the largest single transfer of wealth Scotland has ever known - and the people that opposed it then are still clearly hoping to return us to those dark old days when we had more public housing than communist East Germany.
"The lack of affordable housing is entirely due to the restrictive planning laws that make development harder. People who moan about the lack of housing for low-income families are often the first to complain about any developments near their own home."
Mr Monteith's views are not widely held in Scotland. Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats all see a role for the state in housing.[13]

On Apartheid

I once visited South Africa during the apartheid years. I had set up a protest group called Conservatives Against Apartheid and I wanted to see for myself what it was like. I found Mercedes Benz factories and Toyota factories churning out cars for the masses while, back in Blighty, British politicians were berating Mrs Thatcher for not backing sanctions. The reality was that apartheid - a collectivist system like any other in that it sought to control people - was on the verge of collapse. But it wasn't sanctions that were making the difference - it was free trade that was breaking down the barriers.[14]



  1. The Free Society, 3rd Feb 2008 Former MSP appointed policy director of The Free Society accessed 3rd November 2008
  3. PR Week August 15, 1997 Monteith aims to sway Scottish devolution vote BYLINE: JULIETTE GARSIDE
  4. The Herald (Glasgow) August 23, 1997. No TWO WAYS ABOUT IT BYLINE: Robbie Dinwoodie, Pg. 11
  5. Scotland on Sunday July 9, 1995, Sunday New Tory team BYLINE: Michael Forsyth, The New Secretary Of State For Scotland, Has Launched A Charm Offensive To Underline His Insistence That He Has Changed Since He Last Stalked The Corridors Of The Scottish Office. Is It Cosmetic Or Is There Substance To The Claim, Asks Political Editor Kenny Farquharson SECTION: Pg. 9
  6. The Guardian (London) November 4, 1988 Banned Tory students re-emerge to continue the rightwing struggle / The fall and rise of members of the abolished Federation of Conservative Students find posts close to the heart of political power BYLINE: By DAVID ROSS
  7. The Herald (Glasgow) August 23, 1997. No TWO WAYS ABOUT IT BYLINE: Robbie Dinwoodie, Pg. 11
  8. The Herald (Glasgow) October 19, 1993 Scots Tories' turbulent years revealed SECTION: Pg. 1
  9. Sunday Mail August 31, 1997, Sunday IT'S A NO NO!; pounds 53,000 strife of Brian; The firm Leith Communications run by anti-devo campaigner Brian Monteith went bust with debts of more than pounds 53,000 BYLINE: Angus Macleod SECTION: Page 7
  10. MSP quits Tory group after probe, BBC Online Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 20:19 GMT
  11. Monteith to stand down as MSP, The Scotsman, 2006-11-01, accessed on 2007-02-10
  12. Scotland on Sunday December 9, 2001, Sunday ILLUSTRIOUS LOBBYIST IN SHIMMERING PYJAMAS BYLINE: Peter Clarke SECTION: Pg. 6
  13. The Scotsman November 2, 2007, Friday 1 Edition Should our local authorities build council houses again? BYLINE: PETER MACMAHON SECTION: Pg. 10
  14. Evening News (Edinburgh) July 27, 2001, Friday DON'T TAKE AWAY TRADE WITH CHINA, BYLINE: Brian Monteith SECTION: Pg. 13
  15. PR Week March 10, 1995 Communication Group Scotland buys Forth PR SECTION: Pg. 5