A BUSINESSMAN has claimed the SNP has a “habit of warning-off opponents in a threatening manner” as he suggested executives were being leaned on not to state their opposition to independence.
Tony Rush – a former construction magnate and member of the CBI Scotland council – spoke after allegations were made about the Nationalist leadership attempting to intimidate critics of independence.
He said he only felt free to speak out now as he is moving to Norway with his family.
The former chair of construction firm Barr Ltd told The Scotsman he knew about a dozen people he claimed had been pressured to tone down their views on the referendum debate.
He declined to name the individuals but suggested the SNP leadership had been involved in such practices since the referendum date was announced in early 2012.
The SNP leadership dismissed the claims.
Mr Rush, who will remain a CBI Scotland council member until September, said a colleague from another firm has in recent weeks complained to him about being pressured to curb his anti-independence comments.
He said: “My personal experience and from what others have said is that it’s been a line of, ‘it won’t be good for your career’.”
First Minister Alex Salmond reportedly telephoned the chairman of Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE) last November in an attempt to persuade him to drop a report on independence.
Mr Rush said he would be voting No on 18 September. He added: “My opposition is not just that I see no good reason to break up a union which has served the Scottish people well over 300 years, it is founded on my experience of meeting and dealing with the SNP and their administration.
“But, what I will say is that I am forcibly struck by civil servants being in fear of SNP ministers. This unhealthy relationship appears to me to be transmitted right through the wider public sector and the third sector.”
The First Minister was yesterday accused by opposition politicians of presiding over a “culture of intimidation” and of leaning on bodies such as SFE.
Mr Salmond had already faced claims that he attempted to “intimidate” the leader of Scotland’s fishermen, Bertie Armstrong, after he challenged the SNP leader about the possible consequences of independence.
A spokesman for the First Minister dismissed suggestions Mr Salmond had tried to pressure executives in the financial sector. He said: “Members of SFE have a variety of different views on the constitution, and the Scottish Government believes it is important for that to be properly reflected – something which SFE has sensibly done.”
He declined to comment on Mr Rush’s comments.