A HIGH flying PR executive who was charged with masterminding Scotland’s Year of Homecoming campaign issued a “cry for help” to bosses before suffering a mental collapse, a tribunal heard yesterday.
Richard Saville-Smith, 48, from Edinburgh, told how he had struggled under the workload and asked for support – all against a backdrop of seeing his expert advice ignored by management.
He told an Employment Tribunal in Edinburgh yesterday that the strain of it all saw him suffer a bipolar episode – his first in 13-years – which eventually led to his sacking.
Mr Saville-Smith, who blames management at EventScotland, is now claiming unfair dismissal under disability legislation after receiving his P45 last Christmas Eve.
Giving evidence he said: “It was job I loved and a job that I was good at but instead of helping me they kicked me out and I was left in limbo for nine weeks. I was treated as a pariah.”
He told the tribunal how he was in charge of a £250,000 PR budget and had drawn up bold plans to launch a global charity based Burns Supper project.
The respected PR manager was also instrumental in opposing the choice of the song Caledonia by Dougie MacLean as the focal point of the year-long campaign, fearing it would be ridiculed.
Mr Saville-Smith claimed the “bullying” style of management at EventScotland, a lack of resources, an increased work load and senior staff who refused to listen to his concerns surrounding the multi-million pound project led him to suffering the bipolar episode.
After undergoing a spell at New Craigs Hospital in Inverness for his condition, the businessman was sacked on the grounds of incompetence.
Following three weeks of treatment at the secure facility, Mr Saville-Smith was prevented from returning to work despite an all clear from his psychiatrist.
After nine weeks of inactivity the PR manager was then invited by his Event Scotland bosses to discuss changes to his eighteen month contract.
He was subsequently sacked from his £40,000 a year job as PR manager on the grounds of incompetence and received his P45 on Christmas Eve.
Today, (Mon) Mr Saville-Smith represented himself in front of a three man employment tribunal in Edinburgh alleging that he was unfairly discriminated against under legislation covering disability.
He said: “When I arrived, Homecoming Scotland had a troubled history, the project was always under pressure.
“Previously they did not hire a PR manager and EventScotland did not have any experience in managing this size of project.
“They chose to appoint one person to work one day a week.
“That was the crucial planning time and that is when the campaign should have been written.
“Not appointing a full time manager for a global campaign such as Homecoming seemed inept.
“I came up with the idea of a global Burns Supper with all those involved connected by the internet, but on August 16 I got ill very quickly.
“I suffer from bipolar and when I get ill I get very ill.
“I wrote a letter asking for another person to be employed to help with the work load – this was my cry for help.
“The additional work, which was approved by management, was not amended in my job description.
“I spent time in a locked ward in New Craigs and I was lucky because after being ill I became well again very quickly.
“When I come out of it I’m fine.
“What I really needed was to get on with my job. But the way the management at EventScotland acted helped put me in hospital.”
After joining the Homecoming team in June 2008 Mr Saville-Smith realised the enormity of the task he was given in heading the PR team.
He immediately instigated a plan to organise a world record breaking charity Burns Supper that would involve Scots all over the globe.
He claimed bosses at EventScotland admitted his idea “could be bigger than Homecoming itself”.
Mr Saville-Smith also vehemently opposed the choice of the song Caledonia as the soundtrack to the Homecoming campaign because of its connotations of home sickness.
He said “I didn’t think it was a good idea, the people in charge thought the song would be a worldwide hit and go to number one
“But there is a fundamental mismatch with the people we were trying to attract because most of the Scottish diaspora were not homesick.
“I told them then it would be a disaster if they went ahead with that song.
“I was proved right because the public and the media hated it.”
“Failed to deliver basic requirements”
Mr Saville-Smith, who previously managed a hugely successful PR campaign for Make Poverty History, also advocated a stronger cross-party involvement in the Homecoming campaign after claiming the project could be mistaken as a vehicle for the SNP’s independence plans.
After completing just seven weeks of employment as the PR manager for Year of Homecoming, Mr Saville-Smith was eventually dismissed on Nov 30 2008.
His termination letter stated the PR manager had “failed to deliver basic requirements of the role and failed to engage with fellow staff member”.
The tribunal, which is due to last four days, continues tomorrow (Tues).