By a Newsnet reporter
A business lobbying group which has announced its intention to officially campaign against Scottish independence has been accused of failing to consult with its own members before making the decision.
The CBI is facing a crisis after it emerged the organisation had registered with the Electoral Commission as an official backer for the anti-independence campaign Better Together.  The news, which broke on Saturday, led to several companies including broadcaster STV to resign.

The move will allow the London based CBI, which has a subsidiary branch in Scotland, to spend up to £150,000 in order to campaign against a Yes vote.

However the under fire group is facing calls to explain why it failed to consult member businesses prior to taking its controversial decision. 

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Tony Banks, chairman of the Balhousie Care Group which has resigned its CBI membership said the move had placed businesses, most which were neutral, in an “untenable position”.

“Most businesses in the independence debate are neutral, my business is neutral” he told Good Morning Scotland.

Commenting on the CBI decision to officially register with the Electoral Commission, he added: “The fact that they’ve actually came out and registered now means that they’ve firmly become a political organisation and put their flag in the ground behind the No campaign, and that was the final straw.”

Mr Banks claimed there were a “number of members” that were upset at the failure of the CBI to properly consult prior to deciding to back Better Together.

On claims by the CBI that the organisation had acquired a mandate through the CBI Scotland council Mr Banks said he had discussed the claim with other members, and that, “they cannot remember this being discussed or voted upon.”

Mr Banks, himself is chairman of the pro-independence group Business for Scotland, then called on the CBI to publish the minutes of the discussions it claims took place.

He said: “I would actually challenge the CBI to produce minutes in evidence of the fact that they’ve went through a democratic process to come to this decision.”

The businessman said he expected more resignations from the CBI in Scotland when business returns after the Easter break.

According to BBC Scotland the organisation refused to put forward any representative to be interviewed on Good Morning Scotland to respond to the claims.  However, despite refusing to be interviewed, listeners heard an unchallenged statement from the CBI in which the organisation’s head John Cridland was allowed to defend the decision claiming his organisation was reflecting the mood of its members.

Mr Cridland was heard claiming businesses had a “point of view” on the implications of Scottish independence and that the CBI was not trying to campaign.  He that the lobbying group would be carrying out “normal activities” and said resignations from businesses were “a regret”.

Claims by Mr Cridland that his organisation had to register with the Electoral Commission were challenged by BBC Political Editor Brian Taylor who said the CBI had interpreted referendum rules “very, very, very broadly” indeed.

A long term critic of the Scottish Government and independence, the CBI in Scotland has long faced criticism for claiming it represented Scottish businesses.  In 2011 research revealed that the organisation’s membership north of the border was no more than ninety in total.

In 2013 at its annual dinner attended by senior Unionist politicians including Nick Clegg, Michael Moore and Johann Lamont, guests heard speeches in which Scottish independence was attacked.

Despite the lack of membership north of the border, CBI Scotland has, for several years, been presented by BBC Scotland as a politically neutral representative of businesses in Scotland.  Its director, Iain McMillan has featured regularly by the broadcaster making attacks on the Scottish Government and independence.

Asked in April this year if the views expressed by CBI Scotland were the views of its members, McMillan appeared to admit they were not, but that they were the collective view of the council of CBI Scotland.

In 2012 McMillan was forced to admit claims he made suggesting businesses had called for an early independence referendum, were actually false.

The CBI Scotland spokesman had said that the issue was raised at a meeting of its members and that they were “very much at one” with his organisation’s calls for an early ballot.  However Mr McMillan was forced to admit that his claims were false after several business figures at the meeting, which was also attended by Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, issued public statements challenging his claims.

Mr McMillan denied suggestions that he had allowed his own personal views to influence his statements.

“I have no personal view on this.  I have no personal prejudices.  My business is business advocacy to represent the views of the CBI.” he said.

McMillan has faced similar accusations in the past that he is misrepresenting the views of many members of his lobbying group and that his public statements are often based more on politics than on the business needs of his organisation’s members.

In 2010, one of Scotland’s most successful businessmen, Jim McColl attacked claims by CBI Scotland and accused it of being unrepresentative not only of Scottish business opinion but also of the views of its own members.

Back in 1997 Mr McMillan was criticised after making similar exaggerated claims about business worries relating to the then devolution referendum.

McMillan had said that all 54 CBI Scotland members had expressed reservations about proposed tax raising powers for the Scottish parliament.  However it later transpired that 30 of the companies cited by the CBI Scotland chief had not even attended the meeting referred to by the CBI Scotland chief.


2014-04-21 09:11

Will Iain McMillan resign over this fiasco ???

Or could it be that the CBI will wither on the vine in Scotland and be overtaken by a CSI ?
2014-04-21 09:32

Having examined CBI Scotland’s list of members, I’ll be writing to those companies and organisations from whom I purchase products or services in order to establish their stance on the CBI’s support for Better Together. I’d recommend others do likewise.
2014-04-21 09:45

quote article “John Cridland was allowed to defend the decision claiming his organisation was reflecting the mood of its members

Aye the 95% of it’s members based in England
2014-04-21 09:45

I would urge everyone to ask their bank if they are members of the CBI.If they are members,they are supporting Better Together.Phone or email your bank tomorrow morning.Be polite.
2014-04-21 10:08

The CBI in Scotland have been hopelessly exposed as nothing more than a Westminster puppet organization.

I fully expect this to be the beginning of the end for them.

Fairly sure the BBC in Scotland will continue to quote them as a neutral source, whilst their dwindling audience howls at the increasingly obvious propaganda, being put forth as news.

you can now palpably feel the end of the Union creeping up on it’s defenders.

If you can , please help hasten it’s demise by getting this worthwhile project to completion.…/2353157#home

We will have far worse propaganda to deal with over the summer months.
Auld Rock
2014-04-21 10:21

Now correct me if I’m wrong but are not the CBI always moaning that Unions fail to consult their members properly??? Aye, once again don’t do as I do, do as I say or one law for ………..etc, etc

Aild Rock
2014-04-21 10:44

Is ITV a CBI member?

Surely as provider of local news to the Border TV region and UK news to the rest of Scotland through its ITN subsidiary it must have to follow STVs lead in leaving?
2014-04-21 10:48

If they do raise £150k for BT it would be interesting to know what % of it came from its Scottish members and I don’t mean subsidiaries of English companies.
2014-04-21 10:55

What rights do the CBI have in the referendum after registering with Electoral Commission?

I have read the CBI can attend hustings, attend the vote count and even have access to the electoral roll.

Does anyone know?
2014-04-21 11:25

What we are seeing from British organisations who claim to represent the views of businesses and workers rights is rule by an elite for an elite.
Decisions taken behind closed doors without any democratic consultation being conducted.
This relects how power is exercised within the British state.
Top down “democracy” with people being excluded from the decision making process.
They make the case for radical change to our culture and the way in which we are governed.
We need to change from feudal autocracy to democratic representation and move Scotland into the 21st century along with most of the other developed countries in the world.
These people are a throw back to an era long gone and need to be consigned to history by a Yes vote in September.
2014-04-21 12:33

Our whole business community needs overhauled, and an end to the cleeky elitism where directors find their way onto regulatory boards, and ‘do the rounds’ looking after each others interests. All these quangos which populate the landscape could stand closer scrutiny too.
Procurement abuse is rife in this country, and driving down local productivity and development, since lowest price tenders don’t deliver value for money but cheapness, which isn’t the same thing and a poor substitute for value.
I have no time for Scottish Enterprise. How many decades does it take to stimulate an economy? In real terms, what economic regeneration have they delivered in your area? Arrogant failures in my opinion, long over due for replacement with something better, and I mean better, not just fire and hire the same dead wood under new branding.
I’d bring back trade guilds too, but give them teeth to bite.
2014-04-21 13:35

Scottish independence: University of Glasgow leaves CBI

There goes another one I wonder what Prof. Robertson thinks of this.
call me dave
2014-04-21 14:38

Tweets says

Edinburgh & Aberdeen too!

2014-04-21 15:13

It would appear that the CBI have overestimated their power and influence North of the Border. Perhaps the BBC should take heed and learn a lesson from this poor judgement.
2014-04-21 17:04

As I read it, it was Business for Scotland that forced their hand to declare themselves as unionist. From that I would presume the CBI was quite happy to snipe against independence from the cover of neutrality. Not anymore…

The BBC and other media commentators cannot now promote comments from the CBI as impartial. I’d put that down as a blow to the integrity of the CBI. I’m not sad, but I think they’ve been very naive. To now take an active part in our referendum which they appear to be doing, and do so before either consulting their members or considering their need for neutrality is an even bigger mistake, but having shot their neutrality bolt, they’ve nowhere else to go.

2014-04-21 15:26

Where can I get a CBI membership list so I can contact members to ask what their stance is?

I notice from their web site that they are offering a range of anti independence materials. I wonder who paid for them.
Marga B
2014-04-21 20:05

Angry Weegie – indeed – they have these:

“Scottish referendum: Factsheets
The consequences of independence for the Scottish economy”

“On this page you can view a series of factsheets which have been produced to help employees get to grips with some of the big economic issues around independence that matter for jobs and growth.”

In other words, not for members but for their employees. And all without exception are anti-independence. “The only way you can keep XX is to keep the Union”. etc.

And see the white-hot tweets in answer to this: “Very sad to lose Scottish University members. Education of our young people is vitally important to everyone in business – John Cridland”
2014-04-21 20:25

2012-01-23 11:59
CBI Members scotland
Robert Gordon University
Glasgow Caledonian University
College of Arts and Social Sciences (part of Dundee University)
GU Holdings Ltd (commercial arm of Glasgow University)
Quangoes and similar
Skills Development Scotland
Scottish Enterprise
Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership
Investors in People Scotland
Business Stream (part of Scottish Water)
SECC (91% owned by Glasow Council)
TIE (Edinburgh’s favourite tramline layer)
2014-04-22 09:27

Thanks for the list. What about the banks and insurance companies and other commercial companies?
2014-04-22 14:55

Newsnet Scotland have funny rules for this site. I can only post once every few hours. I tried completing the list a few times last night before I went to bed and it wouldn’t let me. I’ll post some more now – next instalment coming probably tomorrow…. maybe. Silly rules. Will probably be the last time I post on here…. other than attempting to complete this list which will probably take days at this rate.

Trade Bodies
Food Trade Association Management
Graphic Enterprise Scotland
Homes for Scotland
Publishing Scotland
Scottish Building Federation
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland
The Scotch Whisky Association
BID district
Essential Edinburgh
Branches or Subsidiaries
AG Holdings
Conoco Phillips
ISS Facility Services Ltd
Weber Shandwick
2014-04-22 19:28

Post a link to the source RobQos. It’s quicker.
I found it a bit awkward when the length of comments was restricted, but it is a good way of encouraging people to get to the point.
I’m guessing new faces have their comments moderated at first, but that’s a fairly common way to limit trolls. It’s nothing personal.
Same with posts. Say it in 500 letters, or wait 15 / 20 mins to post again. That’s the way NNS run their comments, and it’s their perogative.
Avoid inflammatory name calling. Justified or not, NNS doesn’t want this platform used for the purpose. Again, that seems fair enough. I certainly wouldn’t call it silly.

Lastly, NNS is a pro-independence website, not an anti-unionist website. Big difference. As far as I know, Unionists are welcome to comment, contribute, and engage in discussions. That enriches the debate, something we should all encourage. Nobody should be subjected to abuse whatever side they’re on.

2014-04-21 16:24

I am very sad to hear that Robert Gordon’s University has decided to maintain its membership of CBI.They think they can remain members of CBI,but still claim to be neutral.I’ll be emailing them to let them know it doesn’t wash.
2014-04-21 22:32

Petitioning Robert Gordon University

Resign from the CBI in order to express neutrality in the independence debate.
2014-04-21 23:11

Ask their students for their opinion on free education while you’re at it. See if they’re studying for a PhD in Hypocrisy.

2014-04-22 09:20

Hi Santander did not answer question if they are CBI members just the usual stuff about working with all no matter the result so I have asked them again. Suggest we all ask our bank and stir it up
2014-04-22 09:34

I see that Nosheena Mobarik, Chairwoman of CBI Scotland, is one of the Tory’s MEP candidates for the Scotland ‘region’ in the forthcoming European elections.…/…
2014-04-22 12:33

CBI has always campaigned against independence, let’s face it, have you ever heard it in the news for any reason other than to lay into the SNP and independence? At least it is making its stance official and now its every utterance will come with a health warning.

Don’t understand though why Tony Banks says his business is neutral when he is a member of Business for Scotland?
2014-04-22 15:44

SECC (91% owned by Glasow Council)

I wonder if they will leave CBI ??
red kite
2014-04-22 16:58

Complaint letter put into my Clydesdale Bank branch this morning, and posted to Head office as well.

You must be logged-in in order to post a comment.