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Top Three Tips for Successful Social Media

Top Three Tips for Successful Social Media

The Duchess of Cambridge last week gave her first ever news interview and shared her first Instagram post. Kate shared a series of photos to the Kensington Royal ­Instagram account from the royal tour to Pakistan, with a personal caption and signed “Catherine”. In a world that revolves around “Instagrammable” content and hashtags for every occasion, the Duchess has shown that, even in royal circles, social media is a vital tool in shaping reputations and brand building.

Social media channels have provided brands – whether individuals or businesses – with the ability to produce immediate broadcast updates, efficiently increase brand awareness and establish stronger loyalty and relationships with target audiences. It’s created a seamless link between the old and the new, making it easier than ever to ensure that digital activity complements traditional forms of media.

Like the Duchess of Cambridge, if you are keen to make the most of social media, the best advice is to start small and work your way up. While social media platforms are capable of many tricks, there are three basic core elements to formulating an organic (non-paid for) social media strategy– content, imagery and analysis.

Strong content is at the heart of any ­successful social media strategy. To see the real benefit, you just need to look to social media giants such as Asos, Coca Cola and Netflix – they regularly update their feeds, often several times a day, with easily digestible and relevant content.

Short and snappy

The best part? Social media posts don’t need lengthy copy – in fact, shorter posts are linked to higher engagement rates. International marketing expert Jeff Bullas notes that Facebook posts with 80 ­characters or less receive 88 per cent more engagements. The relatable reality is that people often engage with social media on the go – the shorter and snappier the copy, the more convenient for the end user. It wasn’t surprising that the Duchess of Cambridge’s first Instagram post included several images. Like William and Kate or – dare I say it – Harry and

Meghan, good content goes hand in hand with strong imagery. The best pieces of content would be wasted on social media without a complementary eye-catching image. As well as being more attractive and engaging, posts with images are more memorable.

According to HubSpot, tweets with images receive 150 per cent more retweets than those without, while Facebook posts with images achieve 2.3 times higher engagement. Video is even more compelling,

The good news is that images on social media don’t need to be the product of an expensive photoshoot. Modern phone cameras are just as capable of producing high quality imagery, plus they can be posted within minutes of being taken – social media users love up-to-the-minute content. ­Additionally, there are plenty of websites that offer free usage of copyright-free imagery.

The simple reality

Analysing the performance of content helps to identify the types of posts an audience likes. While the word “analysis” makes it sound like a labor-intensive task, the reality is simple, particularly with content that isn’t paid for.

Would you continue to use a product or eat a food that you don’t like? Of course not. Posts on social media take the same approach – if an audience doesn’t respond well to a content thread, stop using it. Instead, continue to post more of what an audience does like, and test different variations of these threads.

Above all, remember that it’s OK for posts not to work. Testing is an integral part of any social media strategy, especially in the early stages of finding your brand voice.

Like any other influencing tool, however, ultimately it is the outcome of all this effort that is key, yet this is often missed. Through this social media activity are you trying to sell a product, direct people to a particular part of your website or perhaps, like the Royals, positively influence your brand reputation?

– Shannon Earaker, digital and social media manager, Perceptive Communicators.

Political Insider Friday 25 October 2019

Political Insider Friday 25 October 2019

This will be the last Insider before next Thursday’s Brexit deadline, although the jury remains open as to whether that cliff edge will be reached. EU leaders are set to decide today (Friday) whether to grant the UK a three-month Brexit extension. Most EU nations back it but France “is digging its heels in”, according to the BBC. This could mean an emergency summit in Brussels on Monday to allow leaders to reach agreement face-to-face.

Boris Johnson insists the UK will leave the EU next week with or without a deal and he will seek a snap election if the EU grants an extension to January. The Prime Minister was forced to send a letter to the EU (albeit, somewhat churlishly, unsigned) requesting an extension, under legislation passed by MPs last month. But he said he had told EU leaders his policy was still to leave on 31 October.

The Fraser of Allander Institute has published its latest economic commentary, which highlights the impact Brexit has already had on the economy. The report suggests Brexit uncertainty has cost the Scottish economy £3bn due to poor growth and firms delaying investment until after Brexit was concluded. The report also emphasises that the challenges facing Scottish businesses will not end if a Brexit deal or extension is agreed. 

On previous growth, the report continues to caution businesses that any growth seen previously was likely as a result of stockpiling from firms in the lead up to the Brexit deadline. The report also highlighted the strong performance of Scotland’s exports, growing by 4% in 2018, despite rising unemployment and costs. The forecast predicts a challenging long-term outlook due to the new Brexit deal calling for a “harder” Brexit and cautions firms that a no-deal scenario remains a possibility.

Ruth Davidson is facing calls to resign as an MSP after taking a paid job with a lobbying firm. The former Scottish Conservatives leader has been appointed as a senior adviser to PR firm Tulchan Communications. She will be paid £50,000 for 24 days’ work a year on top of her MSP salary of £63,579 but, despite the criticism, the party said the role was “within all parliamentary and industry rules”.

Another Edinburgh politician is in trouble as the Unite union is pushing to de-select Scottish Labour’s Ian Murray as a candidate in the next general election. The MP for Edinburgh South was Labour’s only Scottish MP between 2015 and 2017 and has been a consistent critic of Jeremy Corbyn. Party rules trigger a contest to replace an MP if a third of local members or affiliated unions back it, but Mr Murray said installing a “hard left Marxist candidate” in his place would see Labour lose the seat. He said he would now have to decide whether or not to stand as an independent candidate in the constituency.

A court date has been set in the case against former First Minister Alex Salmond. A preliminary hearing will go ahead at the High Court in Edinburgh on 21 November, before a full trial, which is expected to take place early next year. Mr Salmond was charged with a total of 14 offences on 24 January this year. They include two charges of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault and two of indecent assault.

And finally … Thanks to senior SNP MSP Richard Lyle for taking the time to tour Perceptive client Construction Scotland Innovation Centre on Monday.  Richard has recently joined the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee which recently completed a comprehensive review of Scotland’s construction industry. 

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734932578 or    

Supercharging SMEs to tackle global challenges through a CAN DO approach to innovation

Supercharging SMEs to tackle global challenges through a CAN DO approach to innovation

It was Winston Churchill that said of the Scots “Of all the small nations on earth perhaps only the Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.”

Scotland has a gift for innovation. It’s in our DNA. From penicillin and ultrasound to refrigeration and Watt’s improvements to the steam engine – it is central to our story.

Indeed, for centuries we have embraced the impact of discovery, entrepreneurship and invention to mitigate adverse global headwinds and transform economies for the wellbeing of people and planet.

Today, Scotland can boast world-leading research across several emerging areas including quantum, communications technologies, precision medicine, low carbon and advanced manufacturing, to name a few.

Knowledge transformation is central to Scotland’s future success in the global market place and in tackling the 21st century grand challenges; aging societies, the impacts of AI and big data, tackling chronic disease and the effects of climate change.

SMEs are the backbone of Scotland’s economy, accounting for 93% of all private sector business in Scotland and supporting an estimated 1.2 million jobs.

Bolstering innovation performance and entrepreneurship will be vital to improving Scotland’s international competitiveness and productivity. Yet too few SMEs are active in innovating products, services or business models. And only a small proportion of those who are innovating do so in collaboration with others (such as other businesses or academic institutions) or focus on the potential of international markets.  

In consideration of the above, Scotland’s most innovative SMEs will play a critical role building cultures of innovation that combine human creativity and entrepreneurship with disruptive new technologies (many being developed and researched on Scottish soil) to come up with the breakthroughs that will drive greater business competitiveness, improved productivity and help to secure the wellbeing of future generations.  

That being said; testing and adopting the latest technologies to find new solutions requires a few key ingredients – the right knowledge and skills, money and time. Without the right support SMEs will struggle to stay ahead of the curve on technologies like robotics, blockchain and IoT and realise the potential of these advancements.

Supporting and bolstering business innovation lies at the heart of Scotland CAN DO, a framework that sets a vision to make Scotland a world‑leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation where innovation and growth that benefits all in society, go hand in hand.

Backed by a raft of support initiatives to encourage greater business innovation, this framework has a business innovation target to double Business Enterprise Research and Development (BERD) from £871 million in 2015 to £1.75 billion by 2025.

One major CAN DO initiative is VentureFest. Scotland’s festival of discovery and innovation which culminates in a headline programme every autumn kicking off with Start Up Summit (30 October, Edinburgh) and concluding with the inaugural CAN DO Innovation Summit (20 November, Glasgow).

Now in its eighth year, Start-up Summit is hailed as one of the UK’s leading events for start-ups. Attracting 1000 delegates, it will focus on people, process and performance and will explore all aspects of running a business, including marketing, strategy, leadership, sales and investment.

The CAN DO Innovation Summit will aim to stimulate more innovation within growing SMEs by showcasing the stories of global brands like LEGO as well as over 40 homegrown SMEs. These inspirational forerunners will share how they are creatively adopting new technologies and progressive business cultures across key sectors – from health and connectivity to finance and entertainment – to generate growth through innovation. Local companies like Sustainably (an award-winning fintech startup for social good) will also talk about how they have used the power of responsible business practises to help solve societal challenges.

Crucially, both Summits will help SMEs to navigate the vast range of support in Scotland (and beyond) available to them along their innovation journey. This can be overwhelming for some businesses. They will also also allow businesses across all sectors to make the right connections – academics, investors, entrepreneurs and others – to help them to unlock their innovation capacity and explore the possibilities of tomorrow.

Scotland is already a leader in innovation. We should celebrate that. Sharing our rich innovation capabilities globally will inspire and leverage greater opportunities to attract new investment and talent to the nation. And by designing support mechanisms that enable and empower SMEs to innovate with both social and economic impacts, we will  reach our CAN DO ambition of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the best performing countries in the World, whilst helping to tackle some of the biggest challenges of our time.

Dr Susie Mitchell is Programme Director at Glasgow City of Science and Innovation – the lead delivery agency for VentureFest Scotland (

Political Insider – Friday 18 October 2019

Political Insider – Friday 18 October 2019

A Brexit deal was agreed on Thursday between the UK and EU negotiating teams before a meeting of European leaders in Brussels. Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control.” The two sides have been working on the legal text of a deal, but it will still need the approval of both the UK and European parliaments. The DUP has cast doubt on its success, saying they still cannot support it.   The House of Commons sits tomorrow in a rare Saturday session.  Various deals and counter deals are still being discussed but that will be the point of no return if the UK is to avoid a no deal Brexit. 

Prior to the Saturday sitting, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the deal sounded “even worse” than what was negotiated by the PM’s predecessor, Theresa May, and “should be rejected” by MPs. But European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said it was a “fair and balanced agreement”.

Elsewhere, anti-Brexit campaigners are to launch a legal bid to stop the UK government from putting its proposed withdrawal agreement before Parliament. They believe it contravenes legislation preventing Northern Ireland forming part of a separate customs territory to Great Britain. Campaigner Jo Maugham QC announced plans to petition Scotland’s highest civil court yesterday and expects the legal challenge to be heard later today.

Closer to home and Holyrood continues its two week October recess.  That hasn’t stopped Nicola Sturgeon returning to the theme of a second referendum on Scottish independence, saying it “must happen next year”, as she wrapped up the SNP conference. Ms Sturgeon confirmed that she will ask the UK government for formal consent by the end of this year. She said Westminster had “no right” to block the request, and its opposition to indyref2 is “not sustainable”. But she stressed any referendum had to be legal if the result was to be recognised internationally. She said this was because her aim was not merely to deliver a referendum – but to deliver independence.

Scots have pulled back on buying non-essential items, according to the latest survey of retailers. The Scottish Retail Consortium said food sales continue to rise, and at a faster rate than the UK as a whole. But non-food purchases saw a steep drop last month, down by more than 5% when compared with September 2018. Political and economic uncertainty ahead of the planned Brexit date of 31 October is being blamed for caution among shoppers.

The Scottish Greens have become the first of the five main parties to announce the candidates that will contest the regional lists at the 2021 Holyrood election. Every Green MSP elected since 1999 has been elected as a regional Member and the party believes it can win more list seats at the election, growing from the existing six MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. 

All the party’s MSPs have been reselected as number 1 (2 for Andy Wightman in Lothian, behind MSP colleague Alison Johnstone) apart from John Finnie, who has announced his retirement. Hoping to replace him will be regenerative designer Ariane Burgess, who tops the regional list for the Highlands and Islands.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or    

Robbie Hunter: I always had Grand Designs on my future career

Robbie Hunter: I always had Grand Designs on my future career

Like many children, I liked ­playing with Lego and creating my own buildings, but it wasn’t until I started watching Grand Designs on TV that I realised how much I was really interested in construction.

All I wanted to do was design great buildings and become an architect.

During my third year at school I was offered career advice to help choose my subjects to study. The classes were great, giving me an opportunity to think about other careers in construction, such as quantity surveying or construction ­management.

Further research on a special career database showed me just how many years I would be studying for each career and the expected salaries. The teenage me began to realise the time it took to be an architect and I really wanted to start my career and get money in the bank.

A week’s work experience at an ­architect’s studio in my third year at school confirmed it actually wasn’t for me as I wanted to be on site, working with the ­people constructing the building and not as much in an office.

I stayed until sixth year and passed my Highers and then opted to study an HNC in construction management at my local ­college in Ayr. I wanted to continue ­learning, so the following year I took up a place at Glasgow Caledonian University to study a BSc (Hons) in construction ­management.

The timing wasn’t ideal – it was during the recession, which meant there were very few opportunities for work placements on site during my third year. However, I was really pleased to be given the chance of a six-week placement with Kier on site at Montrose House Care Home on Arran.

I was a bit anxious walking on site for the first time as a trainee assistant site ­manager and tried not to feel intimidated, but I shouldn’t have worried.

I was so keen to continue with Kier and was delighted when they offered me a place on their graduate scheme, even though I had one semester and a dissertation to write before I was qualified to join. It was really hard work three days on site and two days at university but Kier supported me and I have never looked back.

My friends that went into more traditional professions, such as accountancy and law, are always surprised about the career opportunities and responsibility I command. I am passionate about communicating the opportunities in construction.

You can start, as I did, as a graduate, but equally, there is nothing to stop an apprentice tradesperson working their way to the top. If you take the first step into construction you’ll never regret it.

I’ve really noticed at Kier that if you have got the drive and commitment, there is a ladder to climb. The graduate scheme can be a steep learning curve, particularly on the technical side.

However, there are learning and development programmes and training opportunities. I am now a mentor for one of my colleagues who is currently studying part-time at university and it’s great that I can offer her advice and support. I hope to be given more opportunities like this in the future.

I am in an exciting career with a bright future and plenty of options ahead. I can progress my role in site management and get involved in bigger, more prestigious projects, I can work up to leading a project, or if I want the option to be more office-based in the future, I can progress through a contract management route.

The industry is crammed full of opportunities and I think it’s so important to enjoy your job and to feel there are new challenges and opportunities to aim for.

I still love watching Grand Designs, but always think how much better it would be for the homeowners to employ a professional site manager to keep the projects on time and within budget. Although it probably wouldn’t make for such entertaining television!

Robbie Hunter is site manager for Kier ­Regional Building Scotland.

Political Insider – Friday 11 October 2019

Political Insider – Friday 11 October 2019

EU leaders have pulled apart the UK’s Brexit proposals, accusing Boris Johnson of putting forward untested ideas to solve the Irish border crisis. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the EU needed workable solutions “today not tomorrow”. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs that while he would “not exclude” a deal in the coming days, progress had been limited.

Some light may yet be about to shine, however.  With less than three weeks to go, Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar agree they can “see a pathway to a possible deal” after talks yesterday, Downing Street said. The two leaders had “constructive” talks on the UK’s Brexit proposals and believe a deal “is in everybody’s interest”, a statement said. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will meet the EU’s Michel Barnier later today to continue discussions.

Making a further intervention in the Brexit debate, Tony Blair has said the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is a boost for those supporting Scottish independence. The former Prime Minister said the chances of the UK leaving the EU without a deal have increased on the basis of latest briefings from No 10.  But Mr Blair said a deal with the EU was still possible. In an interview with BBC Scotland, Mr Blair also acknowledged that he now finds it a “struggle” to support Labour.

As Holyrood wraps up for a two week recess, plans to give local councils the power to charge a levy on workplace parking have been passed into law. The proposal is part of a series of changes to transport in Scotland put to a final vote at Holyrood yesterday evening. An attempt by Scottish Labour to remove the parking levy aspect was defeated during a debate on Wednesday. The Scottish Government’s transport bill will also shake up bus services, introduce low emission zones in cities and ban parking on pavements.

Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has pencilled in 12 December to deliver his Scottish Budget. Mr Mackay has informed Holyrood’s Finance Committee of his preferred date for setting out the Scottish Government’s financial statement for the year ahead. However, it will depend on Westminster holding a Budget in the next two months which in turn is tied in with the Brexit negotiations and the possibility of a General Election. Mr Mackay said last month that without the tax announcements and economic forecasts of a UK Budget the Scottish Government will not have clarity on funding for 2020-21.

Scotland’s role as a global leader in ethical finance is being highlighted at a world summit in Edinburgh this week. Senior representatives from more than 200 companies and organisations are attending Ethical Finance 2019. Speakers include Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The summit aims to “help define and shape the transition to a sustainable financial system where finance delivers positive change”.

The Lord Provost of Glasgow has apologised and vowed to repay some of her expenses, after facing criticism for charging £8,000 worth of clothing to the public purse. On Tuesday it emerged Eva Bolander had claimed for items including 23 pairs of shoes. In an email to council members, she defended the claims, “made in good faith”, with each “within the rules”. However, she added that “on reflection”, she should not have chosen to reclaim some items.

And finally… Well done to Perceptive client Fionna Kell, a Director at Homes for Scotland, for a strong performance at a Scottish Parliament oral evidence session. Ms Kell was a witness in front of the Local Government and Communities committee as part of their wider investigation into local government funding. 

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or

Tackling fuel poverty by building sustainable homes

Tackling fuel poverty by building sustainable homes

Hands up if you’ve heard about the urgent need for new homes?  Chances are most of the business community have seen a headline or three about the UK government’s ambition to see 300,000 new homes built by the mid 2020s.

And it’s a laudable ambition. While this is a stretch target, and the industry is some way behind the curve, there is no doubt that we need these new homes.

But it shouldn’t just be about hitting a target for the number of new homes built.  Quality and future viability needs to be further up the agenda. I believe it is equally important for the industry to focus on building sustainable, energy-efficient homes that are built to last.

This message is definitely getting through to self-builders who, understandably, have a vested interest in building a sustainable property with low energy costs, as presumably they plan on staying put for years.  

At Scotframe we ensure that self-builders understand the benefits of building sustainably.  This starts with the very fabric of their property – the external walls, floors and roofs.

A timber frame structure is complemented by closed panel building systems – manufactured offsite – to deliver high thermal performance and an exceptional air-tight home that exceeds the most stringent environmental and sustainability credentials.

It costs a little more at the outset but the costs are recouped via lower energy bills in future.

But how do you persuade, say, housing associations to do the same, when government and industry focus is all about the number of new homes built?

It was not always like this.  In the early noughties, 40% of housing association properties were built to a timber frame construction and often to a higher specification than those in the private sector.  However, the recession of 2008 resulted in a focus on building for the lowest cost possible.

Today, there is greater understanding of the importance of building energy-efficient homes.   But if I were a chief executive of a housing association, I would be thinking – how can I leverage sustainability improvements to significantly reduce fuel poverty and reduced on maintenance costs?

There is a big win here for those willing to think beyond unit numbers – Scotframe’s building systems significantly improves a building’s sustainability credentials, thus achieving a remarkable energy reduction over a building’s lifetime. 

Eildon Housing, based in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders is a great example of a registered social landlord thinking differently.

Eildon wants to build homes more quickly and – and this is the important bit –  make them cheaper to heat while they do so.  They plan to trial different construction methods across four new sites beginning in the New Year.  Construction costs, time to build, living quality and financial viability will all be under scrutiny.

Potential new tenants will be involved in the study and the results used to determine Eildon’s future building programme while blazing a trail for how Scottish homes are built and lived in in the future.

This farsightedness is to be applauded.  Scotframe have been working alongside UK social housing providers throughout our 30-year history, extolling the benefits of energy-efficient timber frame packages.   

But we have more work to do to dispel the misperceptions that this way of building costs more.  In reality, any additional costs are rapidly offset by reduced labour resources during a – shorter – build time.  Even more importantly for social landlords, the future maintenance costs during the entire lifespan of the property are significant reduced.  And that’s before you factor in the reduction in heating costs for tenants.

Building energy efficient homes is getting easier all the time, thanks to technology innovation and precision offsite construction expertise but it needs social landlords to see the wider, long term benefits – for them and for the tenants for whom fuel poverty is a growing social concern.

Political Insider – Friday 4 October 2019

Political Insider – Friday 4 October 2019

With less than four weeks to the Halloween Brexit deadline, Boris Johnson says there should be “no doubt” the only alternative to the Brexit proposals he will put to Brussels later is no-deal. Wrapping up his party’s UK conference this week in Manchester, the PM said his plan would be a “compromise by the UK”, but he hoped the EU would “understand that and compromise in their turn”.  The European Commission said they will examine the proposals objectively. Taoiseach Leo Varadker told the Irish Parliament: “What we are hearing is not encouraging and would not be the basis for agreement.”

Also on the final day of the Tory party conference, Boris Johnson claimed that the SNP want to “bundle” Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street to secure a new independence referendum in 2020. The Prime Minister told the conference that the SNP may try to put the Labour leader in power to deliver fresh votes on independence and Brexit. Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “open-minded” about replacing Mr Johnson with a caretaker Prime Minister. Mr Johnson said more referendums would cause “total national discord”.

The Lib Dems continue to maintain their hostility to any, even temporary, tenure at Downing Street for Jeremy Corbyn – and call for an immediate halt to Brexit in any form.

Yesterday in Westminster, the Prime Minister said he has made a “genuine attempt to bridge the chasm” in order to get a fresh Brexit deal with the EU. He told MPs his plan – which would see Northern Ireland stay in the European single market for goods but leave the customs union – “represents a compromise”. Jeremy Corbyn criticised the “unrealistic and damaging proposals”.

Another week, another prorogation as the UK government confirms it plans to prorogue Parliament on Tuesday and hold a Queen’s Speech on 14 October. Boris Johnson’s last attempt to suspend Parliament in this way was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court. But the government needs to bring the current parliamentary session to an end, before it can hold a Queen’s Speech setting out its agenda for the next session.

The Scottish Government is considering proposals that would end planning permission requirements for developments that “radically help address climate change”. Developments such as electric vehicle charging stations or centres for generating local renewable energy could be automatically approved. The proposals also include measures to empower communities and local organisations to get involved in planning, as well as proposals to deliver more affordable homes in rural areas. Minister Kevin Stewart said: “Planning has a key role to play in addressing climate change and radically reducing our emissions. Removing red tape from some of the highest priority projects can be a big step towards our goal of a net-zero carbon future. These proposals mark a new way forward for planning in Scotland. Our health, wellbeing and prosperity can be affected by where we live so it is important we get it right”. 

A former SNP MP who quit the party following an investigation into alleged mortgage fraud has been nominated as a candidate for the East Lothian seat. Michelle Thomson was reported to prosecutors regarding the alleged fraud after being elected as an MP in 2015. But in August 2017 the Crown Office confirmed there was insufficient evidence to launch criminal proceedings. Ms Thomson always denied any wrongdoing and re-joined the SNP last October.

If you or your organisation would benefit from our political insight and specialist knowledge and contacts at all political levels, please get in touch with Julie Moulsdale on 07734 932578 or

Sir Jackie Stewart unites sport and science in drive to beat dementia

Sir Jackie Stewart unites sport and science in drive to beat dementia

September marked World ­Alzheimer’s Month – Alzheimer’s is the cause of 60 to 70 per cent of cases of dementia, an issue very close to my heart, having lost my wonderful and clever mum to this cruel disease.

Working in healthcare, technology and construction, I am encouraged by the increasing number of organisations ­tirelessly trying to make the lives of those with dementia and their families more bearable. From specialist care homes and dementia research to software which allows architects to design more effectively by seeing the world as though they had dementia, we have been fortunate to play a small part by raising awareness of these dementia-friendly products and services.

Unfortunately, I am not alone in watching someone I love disintegrate in front of me as a result of this disease. We hear lots about possible cures for cancer and heart disease with high-profile campaigns to fund research. Dementia research, a ­little, but not so much. At the same time as standing up to cancer, dementia seems almost accepted or expected as we age.

According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, 50 million people globally are living with dementia. By 2050 this number will explode to 152 million. In the UK alone, almost one million are living with dementia and 25 per cent of hospital beds are occupied by those with dementia over 65. At nearly £12 billion, the health and social care cost of dementia in the UK is bigger than cancers and heart disease combined, putting a massive strain on public spending and our economy. It is the UK’s number one killer. So, why do we hear so little about this cruel disease and what’s being done to find a cure?

Around 65 per cent of those with dementia are female. It is the leading cause of death for women. Women like my ­precious mum. Hundreds of thousands of families are living this nightmare every day and it is not just those with dementia who are affected. It also has a greater impact on women generally as the majority of carers are women. One-fifth of female carers have gone from full-time to part-time work as a result.

An epidemic disproportionately affecting women with little hope of any ­solution on the horizon. #MeToo on steroids. So, I was hugely encouraged to hear about Race Against Dementia, a charity founded by Sir Jackie Stewart to fund pioneering research into the prevention and cure of dementia, borrowing techniques from the fast-paced world of Formula One.

Sir Jackie’s wife, Lady Helen, was ­diagnosed with dementia in 2014. Once a razor-sharp mind who timed her ­husband’s laps with millisecond accuracy, her short-term memory is fading and dementia is taking hold, devastating the Stewart family as it did my own and millions of others globally. Crowned Formula One world champion three times and winning 27 Grand Prix, Sir Jackie says he is now facing one of the biggest ­challenges of his life.

Race Against Dementia’s mission is “working faster and smarter to cure dementia”. With support from Formula One royalty, the charity hopes to transfer the sport’s lightning fast data gathering, analysis and innovation to dementia research. In this high-performance environment it is all about results. There is a relentless drive to succeed by using innovative and collaborative technology against the clock. The aim is to transfer this to find a cure and help prevent dementia.

This is a great example of sport, technology and science coming together to battle this ­killer, which blights far too many lives. At ­Perceptive, we have been privileged to ­provide communications support to organisations helping those with dementia and their ­families. Can you imagine the impact of reducing or even eradicating dementia? Too late for my precious mum but hopefully not for the 152 million and their families affected by dementia in the next 30 years.

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