Isla Burns: Scottish Government Intern

Having graduated with a degree in International Relations in 2013, the only office experience I had managed to accumulate throughout my degree involved filing, photocopying and making teas and coffees. I therefore approached my Scottish Government internship, organised through Adopt an Intern, with a degree of trepidation, wondering what my role would entail and how it would feel to work over the summer instead of enjoying a four-month holiday.

I was placed within the Tourism and Major Events division, which is based in Ocean Point, beside Victoria Quay. My slight fear of heights, aggravated by my desk on the eighth floor, is the only problem I’ve come across in a friendly and positive working environment. The division is in Ocean Point due to their close working relationship with both VisitScotland and EventScotland, situated on the top three floors of the building.

2014 is a very busy year for Tourism and Major Events, meaning I have been able to take on a variety of interesting tasks. I am mainly working across the Ryder Cup, Homecoming and Special Projects teams and as a golfer, the chance to work on the Ryder Cup doesn’t really feel like work at all. It’s fascinating to see what is going on behind the scenes of 2014’s major events from a Scottish Government perspective.

The main focus of the team is policy delivery: ensuring that the events being held in 2014 reflect and help to fulfil the aims of the Scottish Government. To that end, I have been providing briefings in relation to the Ryder Cup to ministers, allowing them to keep up to date with key issues and progress and preparing them for events and meetings. A highlight for me has been drafting two keynote speeches for the Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport, Shona Robison, for a policy seminar in Brussels on the Ryder Cup and its impact on Europe. Knowing that some of the work I had done behind the scenes was presented to a varied group of EU Representatives was very rewarding. I am looking forward to the chance to visit Gleneagles and the PGA Centenary Course in the near future, to get a feeling for the event venue and the course.

Other tasks include providing the Secretariat for Bannockburn Live meetings, offering me access to high level meetings I would not otherwise be able to attend. I have been able to shadow my line manager at 2014 Key Event Co-ordination meetings, giving me the chance to meet David Grevemberg, Chief Executive of Glasgow 2014, Francesca Osowska, the Director for Commonwealth Games and Sport and Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland. I was also able to sit in on a Key Event Co-ordination ministerial meeting at Parliament with Fergus Ewing, Shona Robison and Fiona Hyslop. The chance to attend these meetings has given me a real insight into civil servants’ relationship with Ministers and the top-level activity surrounding the planning of 2014’s key events.

Those co-ordinating the internship project encouraged us to use our time at the Government to further our own development, and have been very supportive in this respect. Attending First Minister’s Questions, listening to a talk given by the Irish Ambassador to the UK and upcoming public policy making and speechwriting courses are just a few highlights of what’s on offer to facilitate our learning. As many Scottish Government employees move around the Government fairly regularly, it has been interesting to talk to different people about their varied experiences, and they have often offered advice and contacts. I have no doubt that taking advantage of the opportunities provided will make my time here stand out to future employers.

Although it took some time to get to grips with the structure of the Scottish Government and Civil Service culture, in only two months I have learnt a great deal about how the Government operates on a day-to-day basis and the relationship between civil servants and politicians. Due to being one of 27 interns, I found myself with a strong support network from day one, and I’m sure we will stay connected as our careers develop. I am excited to see where the rest of my time within the team will take me, and for the next steps in my career.

Isla Burns
Adopt an Intern Alumni
Tourism and Major Events Intern, The Scottish Government 


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