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EXCLUSIVE: Mark McDonald reveals his ‘next step’ after leaving Holyrood

Former MSP Mark McDonald.
Former MSP Mark McDonald. Picture by Paul Mavor Photography.

Former SNP minister Mark McDonald has set up a new consultancy business as he takes his “next step” after leaving Holyrood.

Mr McDonald, who quit his role as childcare and early years minister in November 2017 over harassment allegations, has launched Square Peg Consulting.

It offers political and public engagement consultancy, as well as public speaking coaching.

The former Aberdeen Donside MSP said he is in discussions with a number of potential clients.

“I’ve addressed the problems that I faced publicly on more than one occasion, including in my final speech in the chamber, and I’m grateful for the support that I’ve had from former colleagues, and also from people who have been in touch about using my services,” he said.

Nicola Sturgeon, Mark McDonald and Alex Salmond.
Nicola Sturgeon, Mark McDonald and Alex Salmond.

Mr McDonald, a former Aberdeen councillor, spent a decade at Holyrood, representing the north-east region from 2011 and then the Aberdeen Donside constituency from 2013 until last month, when he stood down at the election.

In 2018, he quit the SNP and subsequently served a one-month suspension from the Scottish Parliament after a probe by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland ruled that he had sexually harassed a parliament worker.

It was found that Mr McDonald breached the code of conduct by sending Twitter messages to a woman that created an “intimidating, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” and “involved sexual harassment”.

He was cleared of other allegations and has “apologised unreservedly” to those involved, including during an emotional farewell speech at Holyrood in March.

Asked about his new business, he said: “I had been thinking for a while, prior to stepping down, about what my next step would be, and I took a decision prior to the May election that I was going to go down the road of establishing my own business.

At this stage I’m just looking to build the business up and hopefully that will happen over time.”

“I took some soundings and launched in early June. I’m in discussion with a number of potential clients and also working on behalf of a couple of clients as well.

“At this stage I’m just looking to build the business up and hopefully that will happen over time.”

Mr McDonald said the name “Square Peg Consulting” was related to “that idea that usually the solutions to difficult problems are not easy fits”.

Mark McDonald has started a consultancy business.
Mark McDonald.

The website for the business states: “Our founder, Mark McDonald, has 20 years’ experience in local and national government.

“With this experience of Scottish politics Mark has significant insight into what works when it comes to political and public engagement strategies and techniques.

“We believe every client needs an individual approach, and we work with you to understand your needs and deliver bespoke advice, support and guidance to help you maximise the impact of your work.”

The site states that the consultancy can help with stakeholder mapping and engagement, responding to local and national consultations, providing written evidence to parliamentary committees, preparing for giving oral evidence to parliamentary committees, effective advocacy, building a successful campaign, public engagement and consultation, public speaking and presentations, and meeting facilitation.

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