Douglas Trainer

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Douglas Trainer was appointed as a special advisor on health to the Scottish Executive by Jack McConnell in May 2006.

Trainer is a graduate of Strathclyde University, a former president of the National Union of Students, a former lobbyist for Luther Pendragon and a PR advisor to Coca Cola in their attempts to fight the boycott of coke and its products led by students in the UK.

Reactionary influence at NUS

According to the student newspaper London Student, Trainer allowed cuts to go through and suspended an NUS executive member after she criticised him, despite not having power to do so.:

Jo Cardwell, an NUS NEC member, attacked government ministers and Douglas Trainer, the NUS president, for letting the cuts go through. She challenged Trainer to give back the £20,000 that the government spent on his education.
Cardwell called for the government to “kick out the market from education and to encourage students on the basis that they have the ability to learn not the ability to pay.” She won applause by adding: “We are going to have a shoddy dome to represent Britain in the Millennium, we will not have a good education system.”
From the audience Douglas Trainer spoke for abstention on the issue of funding and criticised the protest, describing it as “blackmail”. He attacked both political parties, saying: “You got us in to the Higher Education crisis we are in now. You all made a mess of it as far as we’re concerned.”
In a surprise move Trainer instantly suspended Cardwell from the NUS executive although he is not permitted to do this under the NUS constitution. Cardwell, who is standing for the post of National Secretary at the forthcoming NUS conference said: “This panic move shows how scared the NUS leadership are of United for Free Education. It’s an insult to basic democracy.”[1]

Banning Islamic political groupings

The new leader of the National Union of Students (NUS), Douglas Trainer, has reaffirmed his intention to have Hizb ut-Tahrir and what he calls "other such organisations" banned from university campuses in Britain (see BMMS for October and December 1995; January, February, March and May 1996). He also praised the Campus Watch project, which is a telephone advice service run by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and the anti-racist organisation, Searchlight. Claiming that Campus Watch had taken hundreds of phone calls from students who had been verbally abused by far-right groups and Islamist groups, Douglas Trainer said: "It is a massively important project. NUS has a great relationship with the UJS and I am confident that together we can continue with Campus Watch and bring forward new ideas" (Jewish Chronicle, 23.08.96).[2]

Donations to Scottish Labour while at Luther Pendragon

Trainer worked for PR firm Luther Pendragon in 2003 and took a 'sabbatical' to campaign for the Labour Party in the 2003 holyrood election. the BBC reported:

A lobbying firm made a donation to Labour's Holyrood election campaign, it has emerged. A professional lobbyist from Luther Pendragon worked for the Scottish Labour Party during the May election campaign while on a sabbatical. He later returned to his job with the London-based firm. The company has contacts with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Cabinet Office among many others... Douglas Trainer, who was employed by the firm, Luther Pendragon, worked for the Labour Party's Scottish Parliament election campaign during April. Mr Trainer is a partner in the company and a former Labour president of the National Union of Students. The value of his time has been estimated at more than £4,000. Labour said Mr Trainer arranged campaign visits for First Minister Jack McConnell during a sabbatical.[3]

Spin for Coca Cola

Mark Thomas notes:

Members of the trade union Amicus turned up in force to oppose the planned ban, handing out leaflets stating that they had "consulted with the workers in Colombia and have been assured by them that they do not support a call for a boycott". Obviously, these people have not spoken to the Colombian trade union Sinaltrainal, which initiated the call for a boycott following the deaths of a number of its members.
Stranger still was the presence of the public relations man Douglas Trainer, seen sitting and chatting with the Amicus bloc. Trainer is a PR man consulted by Coca-Cola (in an advisory capacity, it is keen to stress). So what was a PR man with connections to Coke doing at a War on Want AGM? Was he a member? "Yes," said Trainer. So when did he join? "Thursday." Two days before the AGM.
When advisers to Coca-Cola are joining charities two days before crucial votes that will affect Coke, things appear a tad desperate for the company.
So why all the shenanigans at the War on Want AGM?
Trainer is an ex-president of the National Union of Students. Coke currently faces a major NUS conference vote on the issue of boycotting the company. As Coca-Cola's contract with the student purchasing body NUSL is up for renewal, advocates of a boycott are using the opportunity to force a vote. Has Trainer been asked to steer the company through the choppy waters of the NUS vote? Coca-Cola did not comment on this suggestion. [4]

Appointed to Scottish Executive

Jack McConnell was under fire last night after appointing another special adviser to his team, taking the total to an unprecedented 12, and the annual bill to taxpayers to £750,000. Opposition MSPs claimed the first minister had hired another spin-doctor at the public's expense to bolster Labour's chances in the 2007 elections. Mr McConnell was also criticised over his choice of appointment, after he personally chose a former lobbyist for Coca-Cola as his special adviser on health. Douglas Trainer started working for the first minister on Monday, just five days after the Scottish Executive said it wanted to cut down on junk food and fizzy drinks in schools. Earlier this year, he was employed by the drinks giant to campaign against boycotts of its products.[5]
Mr Trainer will be paid between £37,365 and £48,354. A former president of the National Union of Students, he joined Luther Pendragon, a London-based public relations and lobbying firm, in 1998 and became a partner in 2002. In 2003, he worked for Scottish Labour while on a paid sabbatical worth £4167 to the party, organising visits by Mr McConnell and other Labour politicians. On a trip to Alva, Mr Trainer was felled by a karate-style kick from a female SNP council candidate.
He left Luther Pendragon last year and in recent months has worked for Coca-Cola. His NUS links proved vital last month when he helped ensure the union's annual conference rejected plans to boycott Coke in university catering outlets.
Mr Trainer last night refused to discuss his work for Coca-Cola. However, the company said he worked for its British arm in "an advisory capacity", successfully preventing "an ill-informed boycott attempt".
Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader at Holyrood, said: "It strikes me as highly unusual that Jack McConnell has appointed someone who worked for Coca-Cola in their previous job to be now advising him on health matters. But no amount of special advisers will compensate for the inadequacy of his leadership."
Mr McConnell's spokesman said the first minister decided to appoint Mr Trainer before he began a "short-term project" for Coca-Cola earlier this year because of his impressive work on previous Labour campaigns.
He added: "His work [with Coca-Cola] had nothing to do with healthy living. It was about workforce and international issues."


  1. ^Janine Cornwall & Edwin Cartlidge Campaigners halt fees debate London Student, Vol. 18, Issue 11, Friday February 13th, 1998.
  2. ^ 'Hizb ut-Tahrir campus threat' British Muslims Monthly Survey for August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8
  3. ^ Lobbyist aided Labour election BBC Online, Last Updated: Friday, 15 August, 2003, 05:35 GMT 06:35 UK.
  4. ^ Mark Thomas - won't give the world a Coke New Statesman, 13th March 2006
  5. ^ TOM GORDON, Scottish Political Correspondent 12th special adviser for McConnell takes bill to £750,000 The Herald, 11 May 2006.