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From Politics to Policy

Former journalist and media adviser for the Scottish Conservative Party David McKay became interested in organic farming after growing vegetables at home.

He decided he wanted to learn more about the subject with a view to changing career and signed up to do the Postgraduate Diploma course in Organic Farming at SRUC via distance learning.

David McKay standing in a blue shirt smiling against a forest background

Two years on, he is a few weeks into a new job as Head of Policy for Soil Association Scotland and is set to start a Masters degree.

David, 44, from King Edward, Aberdeenshire, said: “I started working in newspapers in 1997 after graduating from Napier University in Edinburgh. My last job was as Scottish Political Editor at the Press and Journal during the 2014 independence referendum campaign and 2015 general election.

“In the summer of 2015, I went into corporate communications at Aberdeen City Council before going to work for Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Conservative party as a media adviser for nearly five years, through two general elections, one Scottish election, and one local government election.

“I then established my own media consultancy Field Media Strategy in 2019 and at the same time, I enrolled at SRUC in the organic farming course. I was already growing vegetables as a hobby at home and wanted to learn more about farming, with a view to a career change.”

While it was a challenging time for the father-of-four, he was able to complete the course by setting aside time a day or two each week to focus on the work.

“I am very pleased that I’ve been able to get through this course by working in the evenings and on weekends – it’s been difficult but very much worth it,” he said.

“I consider myself very lucky to have been taught by people who wrote some of the core textbooks on this subject and have been involved in academic research that is regularly cited by others.

“I am only a few weeks into my new job, and we are all still working from home due to Covid-19, but I am very much enjoying it so far and I am delighted to be part of a great team here.”

The next challenge is to complete the MSc and, in the future, he is interested in fully establishing his vegetable growing business.

“I would like to complete the MSc and after that, who knows,” he said. “I do want to fully establish our vegetable growing business. We will be fully certified in April 2022, but like the SRUC coursework, the biggest challenge now is finding the time to devote to it.”

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