Reform Scotland

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Reform Scotland is a Scottish free market think tank launched on Monday 14 April 2008. It has been described in the press as 'the tartan offshoot of free-market think-tank Reform',[1] 'the sister organisation of the London-based right-of-centre think tank started by the shadow justice secretary Nick Herbert in 2001'[2] and 'a counterpart to the Reform think-tank in London'.[3] Reform Scotland itself maintains that 'Reform Scotland is in fact an independent, autonomous organisation and is neither an outpost nor a branch of Reform.'[4] This may be the formal position, but the links between the two include the fact that Andrew Haldenby the Director of Reform, was on both the Board of Management and the Advisory board on its launch in 2008.

Conservative Connections

In a March 2009 presentation Tim Montgomerie and Matthew Elliott described Reform as part of the infrastructure of the conservative movement in Britain.[5] Reform Scotland is certainly part of that movement and, like Reform is close to certain factions within the Conservative Party. This is evident from the Party connections of its first two staff members - Geoff Mawdsley and Alison Payne, both of whom were Conservative candidates in the past.[6][7] Other party connections include: Andrew John Haldenby the co-founder of Reform, who was advisor on David Davis’s 2001 bid for leadership of the Conservative Party[8] and previously Head of the Political Section in the Conservative Research Department.[9]

Scottish Lobbying Guide

Reform Scotland is highlighted as a key player in the lobbying landscape described by Holyrood Exposed: A Guide to Lobbying in Scotland [10], playing the role of 'influential other'. helping to influence politicians and policy-makers on behalf of lobbying and PR companies. Along with connections to the Scottish Conservative Party, the think-tank has ties extending elsewhere, with former Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond speaking at their first annual dinner in 2009.

It also has the lobbying firm Message Matters under its employ, which lists the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and Standard Life in its list of clients.

The think-tank reveals little about the sources of its funding, but tells us that donations come from a wide range of sources, assuring us that this refers to 'not just the financial sector'. [11] The chair of the think-tank is none other than Alan McFarlane, a multimillionaire financier who also has ties to the David Hume Institute, another neoliberal, free-market think tank.



According to a report in the Morning Star:

A new right-wing think tank is due to be launched in Scotland next month. It is sponsored by the finance sector - the very gnomes who have been whispering in John Swinney's ear over the Scottish Futures Trust. Reform Scotland aims to influence the Scottish policy agenda at Holyrood. Unsurprisingly, one of its interests is increasing competition in public services. Who is the heidie? Ben Thomson, chairman of the Noble finance group. Advisers include Trevor Matthews, chief executive of Friends Provident, and Sir Richard Sykes, former chairman of Glaxosmithkline. The director will be Geoff Mawdsley, former senior adviser to the Scottish Tories, and the trustees are drawn from across the financial services sector. And who has been in discussion with the heidie of Reform Scotland even before it is launched? Step forward Wendy Alexander.[12]

Ian McKerron, media adviser for Reform Scotland has stated in response to this report that "Reform Scotland is not aligned or affiliated to any political party [and]... is a registered charity which accepts donations from a range of sources, not just the financial sector."[13]

Policy Institute connection

In September 2008 the radical right wing think tank the Policy Institute dissolved itself into Reform Scotland.[14]

PR Strategy

Hay McKerron discuss their PR strategy for Reform Scotland on their website saying that the think tank is 'independent, non-political' and 'aims to set out better ways of delivering increased economic prosperity and more effective public services based on traditional Scottish principles of limited government, diversity and personal responsibility.'[15] Engaged to 'help launch' the organisation they have been retained since to provide 'media advice' and to 'plan and implement overall and individual media campaigns for Reform Scotland's research papers and public events.'[16]

'Before each of the think tank's research papers is published', Hay McKerron 'are brought in to discuss and advise on media strategies, organise mock Q&As, to construct and distribute high-calibre but easy-to-read press releases, to organise journalists' briefings and press conferences and to field questions from the media.' According to Hay McKerron 'Reform Scotland has rapidly earned the reputation as one of the country's most influential and authoritative economic research bodies'. Each paper has 'attracted widespread publicity' and 'the First Minister Alex Salmond was principal speaker at Reform Scotland's first annual dinner in March 2009.'[17]

Reform Scotland Public Services Report

Coverage of the report included:


  • Geoff Mawdsley, former Director of Grayling Political Strategy in Scotland; former Chief Political Adviser to the leader of the Scottish Conservative Party.
  • Alison Payne, former senior account manager with PPS; former head of Scottish Conservative MSPs’ Research Unit.

The Reform Scotland website address was registered on 15 November 2007 by Reform Scotland, Executive Centre, 7-9 North St Davids Street, Edinburgh. Its 'Administrative Contact' in 2007/8 was listed as Neil Rapson, (neil.rapson AT based at 40 Trafalgar Lane, Edinburgh.[18]

In 2010 the following staff were also listed:

Advisory board

As of September 2015

Circa 2010

Ben Thomson (Chairman, Noble Group) | Martin Gilbert (Chief Executive of Aberdeen Asset Management plc) | Alex Hammond-Chambers (Former Chairman of Dobbies) | Lesley Knox (Chair, Alliance Trust) | Dan Macdonald, Chief Executive of Macdonald Estates | Professor Sir Donald MacKay (former professor of economics at Heriot Watt and and Aberdeen Universities) | David Milne (Founder and Former Chief Executive of Wolfson Microelectronics) | Keith Skeoch (Chief Executive, Standard Life Investments)[20]

Although not listed on their website (as at 11 March 2010), the Reform Scotland media advisor Ian McKerron states that the following people are also members of the Advisory board:

Circa 2008

Trustees circa 2010

Although not listed on their website (as at 11 March 2010), the Reform Scotland media advisor Ian McKerron states that the following people are also Trustees:

Board of Management (Trustees) Circa 2008


In 2008/09, Reform Scotland published six reports:

  • ‘Powers for Growth’ (March 2008)
  • ‘Power for the Public’ (April 2008)
  • ‘Local Power’ (June 2008)
  • ‘Power to Protect’ (October 2008)
  • ‘Fiscal Powers’ (November 2008)
  • ‘Parent Power’ (January 2009)

In 2009/10, a further six reports were published:

  • ‘Patient Power’ (April 2009)
  • ‘Power to Connect’ (June 2009)
  • ‘Power to Build’ (October 2009)
  • ‘Fiscal Powers 2nd Edition’ (October 2009)
  • ‘Democratic Power’ (February 2010)
  • ‘Voluntary Power Consultation’ (March 2010)[26]


Reform | Hay McKerron Media Consultants - retained as Media advisors circa 2010[27] |


Executive Centre, 7-9 North St David Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1AW


  1. Tim Sharp 'Media as green as all the rest', The Herald (Glasgow) April 19, 2008 Saturday, Final Edition BUSINESS DIARY Pg. 25
  2. Rachel Devine 'Man who thinks for Scotland' Sunday Times, April 20, 2008 Ecosse with Scotland News Review; Pg. 6
  3. 'Scottish think-tank', The Times (London), March 6, 2008, Thursday, HOME NEWS; Scotland; Pg. 23
  4. Ian McKerron Re: spin profiles - reform scotland Email to editor AT, Thu, 11 Mar 2010 14:24:53
  5. Tim Montgomerie, The growth of Britain's conservative movement, ConservativeHome, 14 March 2009.
  6. Aberdeen Press and Journal February 16, 2000 Adviser named as Tories' candidate BYLINE: By SECTION: Politics: General Election, Pg.3
  7. Evening News (Edinburgh) October 3, 2006, Tuesday Home Edition City Tories feel Cameron effect BYLINE: Ian Swanson Scottish Political Editor SECTION: Pg. 20
  8. Tom Baldwin, ‘Davis team plan fuels fears over factions’, The Times, 27 October 2001
  9. Reform – About us – Directors (Accessed: 19 December 2007)
  10. Holyrood Exposed: A Guide to Lobbying in, 12 October 2015, accessed 12 October 2015
  11. Holyrood Exposed: A Guide to Lobbying in, 12 October 2015, accessed 12 October 2015
  12. Malcolm Burns, PFI by the back door, Morning Star March 17, 2008, accessed 11 Mar 2010
  13. Ian McKerron Re: spin profiles - reform scotland Email to editor AT, Thu, 11 Mar 2010 14:24:53
  14. Policy Institute Policy Institute Merges With Reform Scotland Accessed January 5th 2009
  15. Hay McKerron Case Studies, accessed 11 march 2010
  16. Hay McKerron Case Studies, accessed 11 march 2010
  17. Hay McKerron Case Studies, accessed 11 march 2010
  18. Whois entry, accessed 13 April 2008
  19. Reform Scotland Our People, accessed 11 March 2010
  20. Reform Scotland Advisory board, accessed 11 March 2010
  21. Ian McKerron Re: spin profiles - reform scotland Email to editor AT, Thu, 11 Mar 2010 14:24:53
  22. Reform Scotland Advisory board, accessed 24 April 2008
  23. Reform Scotland Trustees, accessed 11 March 2010
  24. Ian McKerron Re: spin profiles - reform scotland Email to editor AT, Thu, 11 Mar 2010 14:24:53
  25. Reform Scotland About, accessed 24 April 2008
  26. Reform Scotland Annual Report 2009/2010, March 2010, p. 5-6
  27. Ian McKerron Re: spin profiles - reform scotland Email to editor AT, Thu, 11 Mar 2010 14:24:53