A PROFESSIONAL communicator rather than an engineer, Wylie Cunningham sees his main task as the ICE's first Scottish Executive Secretary as 'raising the profile of the Institution among the new opinion formers in Scotland'. To that task he will bring his years of experience representing several professional organisations in Scotland - including the Road Haulage Association - which Cunningham says have developed in him a deep understanding of the distinctive Scottish media.
This will not be a purely personal campaign. Cunningham's battle plan is to encourage senior members of the Institution to form closer relationships with the power brokers in Edinburgh and to become more at ease with the media. He hopes to organise formal training in appearing on television and radio for these leading lights, all in pursuit of the long-term objective of delivering the Institution's message more effectively.
Although some Scottish members have been campaigning for local representation for years, devolution is obviously the main catalyst for this basic change in ICE policy. More than 10% of ICE members are represented by the new MSPs. But Cunningham will not be ignoring the wider dimensions of British politics, he says.
'There will still be 72 Scottish MPs at Westminster,' he points out. 'But a Glasgow-based representative can promote the Institution to both more effectively than someone in London.'
This is particularly true in the case of education issues - one of the key areas of ICE interest, where responsibility has been almost entirely devolved to the Edinburgh parliament. Cunningham also believes the Scottish experience will have more relevance for affairs south of the border.
'This year, for example, all the separate public audit bodies such as the National Audit Office will come together under an auditor-general. This will bring a whole new dimension to public audit - one that may serve as a model for the rest of the UK.'
Other professional organisations have made similar moves for much the same reasons, he adds. Devolution is also on the cards for the English regions - which may in their turn express an interest in similarly devolved representation from Great George Street.
Cunningham says the response of the Scottish local associations to his appointment has been 'extremely positive'. He will be able to offer extra support to the various association committees, and believes his involvement with the day to day affairs of the Institution in Scotland will encourage greater participation by the Scottish membership as a whole. Scotland may again be a test bed for changes which could eventually sweep right across the UK - and members look set to benefit if they do.