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Monday, September 27, 1999 Published at 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK

UK: Scotland

Suspension call for media company

Beattie Media has apologised for any embarrassment caused

Pressure is growing for Scotland's professional PR body to suspend Beattie Media, which is at the centre of allegations over suspect lobbying methods.

A senior member of the Association for Scottish Public Affairs said she will demand the company's immediate suspension.

Julia Clarke, chief executive of a parliamentary affairs consultancy, said she is very concerned at the "disturbing allegations".

[ image: The Observer's undercover film of Beattie Media officials]
The Observer's undercover film of Beattie Media officials
She added: "The association was expressly set up to develop and deliver high standards of ethics for the public affairs industry in Scotland.

"ASPA and its members fully support the all-party objectives of openness, accountability and transparency in Scotland's Parliament.

"Therefore as a matter of urgency, I shall be calling for the suspension of Beattie Media as soon as possible from the ASPA pending completion of full inquiries into these allegations."

The suspension call follows allegations in the Observer newspaper that Beattie Media, Scotland's largest PR firm, touted for business by offering privileged access to ministers - including Finance Minister Jack McConnell.

[ image: Jack McConnell used to work for Beattie Media]
Jack McConnell used to work for Beattie Media
The string of allegations include Beattie Media executives telling an undercover reporter, posing as a businessman, that they had access to ministers, most notably Mr McConnell who used to work for a company part owned by Beattie Media.

The company has denied the story and has apologised for any embarrassment which has been caused to Mr McConnell.

It has also taken steps to suspend its parliamentary lobbying division.

As the story broke on Sunday morning, a statement announcing a probe into the allegations was issued on behalf of First Minister Donald Dewar.

Mr McConnell issued a statement before the paper's publication rubbishing the charges.

But he has remained tight-lipped since.

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