Over the next week, The Herald and The Ferret are taking an in-depth look into who really pulls the strings with our 'Who Runs Scotland' investigation.

Our subscribers will get exclusive access to the people and organisations with significant influence over so many aspects of our lives. 

From the hundreds of secret lobbying meetings to who really runs Scotland's wind farms, whisky and media - the investigation will leave no stone unturned in a bid to stimulate discussion and debate.

Here, you can find every article published in the week-long investigation so far - with this piece being updated daily with new exclusive stories.

To make sure you do not miss out on the high-quality insight, join us today by taking out a subscription for just £2 for two months here.

Day One


SNP Government held hundreds of secret lobbying meetings in 2020

HeraldScotland:

Hundreds of meetings between Scottish ministers and multinationals, wealthy individuals and other influential organisations were left off the lobbying register in 2020 due to loopholes in legislation, The Ferret can reveal. 

Analysis of Scottish Government ministers’ engagements in 2020 shows that meetings, potentially of key public interest, were not in the register, including those between ministers and companies awarded multi-million pound UK and Scottish contracts to supply the NHS in the run-up to Covid-19.  

Read the full scale of unrecorded discussions here.


The professional lobbyists who most frequently met with Scottish Government

HeraldScotland:

Professional lobbyists, including former politicians, advisors and a former minister have met with Scottish Government representatives on behalf of clients 179 times since March 2018, The Ferret can reveal. 

Scotland is home to dozens of public relations, think-tanks and consultancy firms, including several formed by or employing people who served in the upper echelons of government. 

Find out the who's who of professional lobbyists here.


Revealed: The power and influence of energy companies in Scotland 

HeraldScotland:

Questions have been raised over the power and influence of energy companies following analysis by The Ferret revealing how key sectors dominate Scottish lobbying. 

The Ferret categorised 711 organisations that lobbied Scottish Government ministers since the register was introduced in 2018 to increase transparency. 

Read the full exclusive analysis here.


Industry and big business dominate access to Scotland Office ministers

HeraldScotland:

Big business including oil and renewable energy, farming, fishing, finance and whisky dominated Scotland Office ministers’ meetings last year, analysis by The Ferret has found.  

 We looked at all external meetings logged in 2020 by Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland, UK Government ministers for Scotland David Duguid and Iain Stewart, as well as Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, who was deputy Secretary of State until he resigned in May that year.   

Read the full report exclusively here.


Day Two

Multi-billion pound offshore tax-avoiding firms investing in Scotland up 60% in a decade

HeraldScotland:

The number of companies registered in tax havens investing in Scotland over the last decade has increased by nearly 60 per cent. 

Analysis of Scottish Government data by The Ferret found that in 2020 there were 135 firms registered in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and British Virgin Islands operating, compared to 80 in 2010. Their collective turnover last year amounted to just over £4bn. 

Read the full exclusive story here.


Third of Scotland's big wind farms linked to tax havens including Cayman Islands

HeraldScotland:

Nearly a third of Scotland’s biggest wind farms have owners with links to offshore tax havens in the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, Guernsey and Jersey.  

An investigation by The Ferret has also revealed that 39 of the largest 50 wind farms are ultimately owned outwith Scotland in England, Spain, France, Germany, Norway, China and elsewhere. 

Read the full report here.


Day Three

Two-thirds of Scotland's whisky distilleries owned by companies in other countries

HeraldScotland:

Nearly 70 per cent of malt whisky distilleries are ultimately owned by companies outside Scotland with wealthy people linked to the industry including a French fashion billionaire, an Australian yoghurt tycoon, a Swiss philanthropist and Thailand’s richest man. 

The Ferret can reveal that of the 126 Scots distilleries only a third (42) are owned by Scottish firms. 

Read the full story here.


The three billionaires who own ten of Scotland's major newspapers

HeraldScotland:

Ten of Scotland's major newspapers are owned by just three men: Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere and Frederick Barclay. They are all billionaires who, personally or through their businesses, have used the law to avoid paying tax.

An analysis by The Ferret reveals that all but one of Scotland's national newspapers, the Sunday Post, are owned in other countries.

Read the full story here 


UK Government held thousands of closed doors talks with Scots-based arms giants

HeraldScotland:

Five private companies who employ around three quarters of the workforce in Scotland’s arms industry had thousands of closed door meetings with the UK Government between 2011 and 2020. 

As part of The Ferret’s Who Runs Scotland investigation we looked at 70 firms operating in Scotland’s defence industry and examined data about them obtained by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). 

Read the full report here.


Day Four

'Excessive' public sector pay gap fears as quango chiefs pick up £10m last year

HeraldScotland:

The chief executives of quangos appointed by Scottish Government ministers were paid over £10m in total last year, leading to “excessive pay gaps” between those at the top and lower paid public sector workers, The Ferret has found.  

In the course of our research we looked at the salaries – before bonuses or pension tops-up – of 89 leaders of quangos (quasi autonomous non-governmental organisations). There are just over 130 quangos in Scotland, which include Scottish government public and health bodies, executive agencies, non-ministerial offices and commissions.  

Read the full exclusive story here.


Scotland's gender pay gap exposed as women board members paid half a million less

HeraldScotland:

Women board members appointed to Scotland’s public bodies get paid half a million pounds less than their male counterparts, despite a drive for gender equality, The Ferret can reveal.   

Published pay arrangements for board members across 93 different public bodies, where appointments are largely overseen by the Scottish Government, show there are now virtually equal numbers of men and women serving on them.  

Read the full story here.


Power players: The influential names and top earners on board of Scotland's public bodies

HeraldScotland:

Influential bankers, retired senior civil servants, well-connected industry insiders, powerful chief executives and former politicians - meet Scotland’s quango class, the people who serve on the boards of Scotland’s public bodies.  

Some roles are unpaid, and many work extra hours in their devotion to public service. But analysis by The Ferret of 775 Scottish Government public board positions has also found a web of influential connections binding many serving in the public sector.  

Read the full analysis here.


Day Five

Revealed: The rich and powerful who influence SNP Government decisions

HeraldScotland:

So who runs Scotland? That’s been the central question of The Ferret and The Herald’s week-long investigation.

Along the way we’ve examined the corridors of power and looked at who gets the most access to ministers – and who doesn’t.

Find out the top 10 most influential people in Scotland here.


How Scotland's richest man lobbied minister against spaceport plans with NC500 warning

HeraldScotland:

Scotland’s biggest private landowner has been attacked as “manipulative” and “undemocratic” after The Ferret revealed that his company lobbied the Scottish Government to stymie plans for a spaceport in Sutherland.   

A letter released under freedom of information law shows that Wildland Limited — which runs three large estates across Scotland for Danish billionaire, Anders Holch Povlsen — warned the former rural economy minister, Fergus Ewing, that its planned investments could be endangered by the spaceport. 

Read the full story here.


Day Six 

Scotland needs 'radical shift' of power as investigation highlights Government's influencers

HeraldScotland:

Scotland needs a radical shift in the way that power and influence are distributed to help address democratic deficits and rebuild trust in the political process, The Ferret has been told.

Politicians and campaigners reacting to our week-long investigation – Who Runs Scotland – claimed it has revealed deep flaws in our transparency legislation and a heavy reliance on big businesses based outwith Scotland, including those with links to tax havens.

Read the full final story here.