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Scottish independence: More members quit CBI

The Law Society of Scotland has become the latest member to quit the CBI over its stance on independence. Picture: TSPL

The Law Society of Scotland has become the latest member to quit the CBI over its stance on independence. Picture: TSPL

  • by TOM PETERKIN
 

THE list of organisations withdrawing from CBI Scotland over its stance on the referendum grew yesterday, with two more universities among those quitting.

Strathclyde University and Glasgow Caledonian University resigned their membership of the business lobbying group as a result of its decision to officially back Better Together.

Their decisions came on the same day that the Law Society of Scotland, Skills Development Scotland – the Scottish Government quango which helps young people into work – and Highlands and Islands Enterprise also decided to leave.

Last night the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), the national accreditation and awarding body in Scotland, added its name to the list.

A spokesman for the SQA said: “We have enjoyed a positive working relationship with the CBI for many years.

“However, as an apolitical public body and to retain our neutrality, we have decided to resign our membership of the CBI.”

CBI Scotland has seen a flurry of departures since it emerged last week that it had registered with the Electoral Commission as an official No campaign supporter.

By registering with the referendum watchdog, the CBI becomes entitled, as a non-party participant, to spend up to £150,000 on campaigning.

The CBI has argued that it does not intend to spend money on attempting to influence the campaign, but has taken the step to comply with electoral law when it hosts events with pro-Union speakers.

To date, 11 organisations have resigned from the CBI claiming that its alignment with the No campaign does not fit with their desire to remain neutral during the debate.

In academia, Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian joined Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen universities who left earlier this week. Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen has expressed disapproval of the decision, but has declined to leave.

Others to go are: Scottish Enterprise, VisitScotland, STV, energy company Aquamarine Power and Balhousie Care Group, run by the prominent independence-supporting businessman Tony Banks.

Strathclyde University, which includes CBI Scotland director Iain McMillan on its advisory board, issued a short statement.

A spokeswoman said: “The University of Strathclyde has reviewed its membership of CBI Scotland and has taken the decision to withdraw from the organisation.”

A Glasgow Caledonian spokeswoman said: “The CBI’s decision to register with the Electoral Commission on the issue of Scottish independence is incompatible with the university’s neutrality. GCU will, however, continue to provide a forum for open debate on the independence referendum.”

Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society, said: “Over the last three years, the Law Society has been an active but firmly non-partisan participant in the debate on Scotland’s future. We’ve asked difficult questions and raised issues that need addressed by both sides of the referendum campaign in order to better inform our members and the wider public.

“We do not believe we could credibly retain our impartiality whilst being a member of and actively contributing to another organisation which is formally registered with the Electoral Commission to campaign for a No vote. That is why we have resigned from the CBI today.”

Skills Development Scotland said: “In light of CBI Scotland’s decision to register as a campaign organisation for a No vote in the referendum, Skills Development Scotland has no option but to resign as a member.”

A Highland and Islands

Enterprise spokeswoman said: “In light of CBI Scotland’s recent decision to register with the Electoral Commission, it is inappropriate for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, given our impartial political position, to remain in membership and we have therefore resigned.”

Last night, a spokeswoman for the independence-supporting organisation Business for Scotland said it was inappropriate for taxpayer-funded organisations to be a member of a body registered as a referendum campaigner.

She said: “We anticipate a growing BfS membership and a declining CBI one in Scotland.”

A spokesman for the CBI said: “While any member deciding to leave is a cause for regret, the CBI is confident we have a mandate from the vast majority of our membership on the question of Scottish independence.”

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