CBI descends into farce as organisation tries to reverse No campaign support move

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
The Confederation of British Industry’s decision to officially back the No campaign has tonight descended into farce after the lobbying group sought to reverse the move.
 
It has emerged that the London based lobbying group, in meltdown in Scotland as organisations resign in protest at it’s referendum stance, is attempting to U-turn last week’s decision to officially campaign on behalf of Better Together.

According to the BBC, the CBI which last week announced that it had officially registered with the Electoral Commission as a campaigner against independence, has asked the commisison to “nullify” its registration.

CBI director-general John Cridland said his organisation had made an “honest mistake”.

In a statement few will treat seriously, Cridland said: “The CBI is politically independent and impartial.

“Although the decision to register with the Electoral Commission was taken in good faith, in order to carry out normal activities during the referendum period, it has inadvertently given the impression that the CBI is a political entity – we are not and never will be.”

He added: “We have always said that the referendum is a decision for the Scottish people and we’re not telling people how to vote.

“However, we do have a legitimate role as the UK’s biggest business group in raising important questions on the big issues affecting businesses, jobs and growth, which we will continue to do.”

An Electoral Commission spokesman said: “We have received representations from the CBI to deregister. We are currently considering whether this is possible under the relevant legislation and will make our reasoning public when we have reached a conclusion and informed the CBI of our decision.”

Tony Banks, chairman of the pro-Yes Business for Scotland organisation, said the CBI had “descended from farce into shambles”.

Describing the attempted U-turn as the, “biggest crisis in the CBI organisation’s history” he said the organisation was now a “public laughing stock”.

Mr Banks added: “Our understanding is that the CBI cannot nullify its Electoral Commission registration and must, having been identified as a campaigning organisation, be policed by the Commission during the referendum campaign period, just as we are ourselves will be.”

Since announcing its backing for the No campaign, the CBI has been hit with a mass exodus of organisations in Scotland.  Broadcaster STV resigned immediately, claiming that the decision had compromised its own neutrality in the independence referendum.

However the BBC decided against resigning but was belatedly forced to announce a suspension of its membership from May 30th in order to conform to referendum guidelines.

Whether successfull or not, there is certain to be considerable fallout over the CBI’s initial confirmation that it would campaign on behalf of Better Together.  The organisation continues to publish, on its website, information and documentation aimed at persuading visitors to vote No on September 18th.