By Martin Kelly
The Electoral Commission has revealed it held private meetings with the CBI twice in the months leading up to the lobbying group submitting its application to become an official campaigner on behalf of Better Together.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that in November 2013 and January 2014 the commission held discussions with the CBI about the rules on referendum campaigning, the registration requirements and advice on registering.

Confirmation that both bodies held discussions on the requirements of registering as a referendum campaigner call into question claims by CBI Director General John Cridland that he had no knowledge that an application was to be made on behalf of his organisation.

The application was initially accepted by the commission, but nullified two weeks later after Cridland claimed the signatories had acted without the necessary authority.

Asked by Newsnet Scotland who in the CBI they had given the advice to, the Electoral Commission refused to say.

A spokesman said: “Your enquiry about who the advice was given to in the CBI is more appropriately addressed to the CBI.”

However a response to a previous Freedom of Information request suggested that Mr Cridland was aware of the advice.

On April 23rd, Electoral Commission Chair, Jenny Watson relayed details of a conversation she had held with Mr Cridland the day before the CBI boss officially requested the application be nullified.

She told colleagues Cridland believed: “..only he has the ability to sign such a form and was unaware of it; and that they [CBI] should never in any case have registered and the correct approach would have been to listen to our advice and adapt their plans accordingly in order to ensure that they were not at risk of becoming involved in activity which would cause them to be regulated.” [our emphasis]

In his submission to the Electoral Commission, Cridland insisted the CBI had received no legal advice prior to the application form being signed.  However days earlier in a BBC interview the CBI Director General claimed his organisation had indeed received advice.

The CBI, a lobby group campaigning on behalf of UK businesses, registered with the EC as an official supporter of the No campaign on April 14th.  The registration was initially accepted by the EC, but declared void by the commission over two weeks later after the CBI director-general John Cridland claimed it had been made in error.

The episode has proved to be one of the most controversial of the entire referendum campaign with several Scottish organisations resigning from the CBI in protest at its initial decision.

It has split broadcasters STV and BBC Scotland with the former resigning its membership within days of the CBI’s aborted registration.  However controversy still surrounds the decision of the BBC to maintain its £22,000 per year membership of the pro-Union organisation.


2014-06-26 22:45

The plot thickens, this is making the E/Commission itself, look like they have allowing the CBI to flunk the rules.

This might bring the commission into disrepute, someone in authority needs to look into this.

If the Commission are seen wanting in this, they should not be allowed to monitor the referendum.

They may be seen to have allowed the CBI to break the rules with no penalty at all. How then, can they say they are impartial?
Mad Jock McMad
2014-06-26 22:49

Surprise, surprise – a UK Establishment stitch up .. creates great faith in the capabilities of the Electoral Commission and its mission of impartiality ….
2014-06-26 23:57

Exactly! Well said.

2014-06-26 22:49

The CBI was a side show.
The main event was the BBC and it’s so called neutrality in our Scottish referendum.
I am continually disgusted by the arrogance of the British state when it comes to transparency and accountability.
2014-06-26 22:56

Some of these people seem to have seriously short memories or a short term memory problem, or both. How many versions of this story have we had up to now? You would think they could come up with something that doesn’t look so much like one big lie. And I agree, it does call into question the impartiality of yeha electoral commission. Perhaps we should now be asking outside observers like the EU or UN monitoring this referendum.
Alien Act
2014-06-27 01:01

Just when you thought the BBC couldn’t get any worse, they surprise us all by “getting worse”.

They have changed the wording in their advert for a new chairman of the BBC trust. Reducing the hours required to work each week, and they have also extended the deadline for applications.
All designed to suit the governments preferred applicant Seb Coe.
The Guardian had the story on the front page of their website but took it down after a few hours and it is now nowhere to be found.…/…
2014-06-27 06:47

Alien Act , it is still there.

For anyone interested the BBBC is pulling a flanker to allow Seb (F^ck ’em) Coe to take on the sinecure vacated by another useless person.

It says so much for BBBC Trust!
Alien Act
2014-06-27 08:38

It is back up now, they removed it last night, but it is back up now. 😉

2014-06-27 09:17

And if he doesn’t apply they’ll keep “re-advertising” the job until he does.
Flower of Scotland
2014-06-27 13:28

I agree WRH2! We really have to press for Independant monitors for the Referendum. I don’t trust the British State!
2014-06-27 15:16

How many ‘private’ meetings have the EC had and with who?

I feel a FOIA request would be appropriate on this aspect.
2014-06-27 22:13

Another day, another exposee of how the UK establishment operates.

Wakey wakey folks.
2014-06-28 07:32

The appropriate body to monitor not only the election process but also the activities of the media in Scotland is the OSCE.
They are the go to body to ensure total fairness in process and to prevent shennanigans by the British State and its media mouthpiece, the BBC.
Only the government of Scotland can call for their assisstance and it utterly baffles me why they don’t. It’s getting a bit late to do so but luckily, the OSCE were tipped off by very concerned individuals several years ago so you can bet they are fully clued up and perhaps are already watching, from afar.
2014-06-28 12:22

Only the government of Scotland can call for their assisstance and it utterly baffles me why they don’t.

Upspake – Scotland is not independent yet. Like the EU, OSCE will only respond to a request from the UK government. A Newsnet reader received confirmation of this and posted it on this site some months ago.

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