CBI Scotland gets most grief from SNP because it asks ‘awkward questions’ claims BBC Business Editor


By a Newsnet reporter
BBC Scotland’s Business and Economy Editor Douglas Fraser has claimed that CBI Scotland Director Iain McMillan (pictured) has made enemies by taking the lead in challenging the SNP’s plans for independence.
Mr Fraser suggested that CBI Scotland was finding it difficult to engage in debate with the SNP Government as a result of Mr McMillan asking what Mr Fraser claimed were reasonable but awkward questions.

Speaking on Good Morning Scotland the BBC reporter, who is also a former political journalist with the Herald newspaper, said Mr McMillan had been “very much to the fore” in taking the debate to the politicians and “making some enemies in the process”.

Mr Fraser added:

“They [Scottish government] have been very unhappy about the way Iain McMillan has led the debate.”

Responding to assurances from Mr McMillan that doors have not been closed, Mr Fraser claimed that he had heard differently saying “… that’s not what I’m hearing.  It’s been difficult to get debate on a whole range of other issues which I think he’s wanting to open up.  He’s talking about some proposals in the budget for instance and reform issues as well.”

Mr Fraser listed a number of other organisations he said were trying to work with the Scottish Government to get their voices heard.  The BBC man implied that Mr McMillan’s lobbying firm was finding it more difficult and added:

“Because of this constitutional debate that’s going on and CBI Scotland taking a very prominent role in asking what are sometimes quite reasonably awkward questions of claims that have been made for independence – that tends to make it the organisation that gets the most grief from the SNP Government.”

Mr Fraser was commenting on the constitutional stance of CBI Scotland Director Iain McMillan who has denied that members of his lobbying organisation have expressed anger over his continual public attacks on the SNP.

Speaking earlier on the same programme, the lobbying group director who is known for his pro-Union views had denied he was softening his attacks on the Scottish government’s constitutional goals because of difficulties caused by his attacks.

It followed a public statement from Mr McMillan that contained no reference to independence or the referendum, a surprise given his very public past criticisms of the SNP’s constitutional aims.

Pressed that this was perhaps due to concerns expressed by members of his lobbying group over his use of his position to promote his own Unionist views Mr McMillan denied the claims and said he was simply focussing on the economy.

Mr McMillan said his public statements reflected the views of the council of CBI Scotland and that members had expressed “significant concerns … about the prospects of a referendum and its timing.” at two recent meetings.

Punch up

Mr McMillan then went on to launch a personal attack on one of Scotland’s most successful businessmen, Jim McColl.  Mr McColl has previously criticised Mr McMillan over his claims to represent Scottish businesses, arguing that CBI Scotland represented only a small minority of firms.

“I don’t want to get into a punch up with Jim McColl,” said Mr McMillan who insisted his public statements were not his own views.

“I reflect the views of the council of CBI Scotland that are elected by the members, that’s what I do, I don’t express my own personal views.” he said and added: “Mr McColl expresses his own personal view and as far as I can see he’s not representing anybody else.”

The CBI Director then went on to attack Mr McColl’s demands for more fiscal powers to come to Scotland and said:

“… I would also say that some of the views that Mr McColl has expressed in the past, one would think that for example devolving corporation tax would be a free lunch, it certainly would not be a free lunch, there are costs and risks involved with that.”

Mr McMillan also appeared to questioned Mr McColl’s constitutional stance and the businessman’s political motives and added:

“The other thing too is that I have seen on two occasions reports that Mr McColl does not support independence, he supports a substantial degree of fiscal autonomy for Scotland, but not independence itself and yet he seems to get involved in the independence from time to time as I can see by almost conflating more fiscal powers within a devolved environment with the independence question.”

Cameron veto

Mr McMillan denied there were differences in the approach of CBI Scotland and its parent body the CBI after both he and the CBI’s UK head had expressed different views on David Cameron’s use of the veto at the European treaty talks in Brussels.

The head of the CBI UK, John Cridland, has claimed that his members were worried about the use of the veto which he said could damage British exporters.  However Mr Cameron’s walk out was defended by Mr McMillan who insisted that the Tory PM had did the right thing by protecting the City of London.

Mr McMillan claimed that there was no difference between both statements and that David Cameron had did what was right for the UK and that ultimately there will be a compromise that will protect the financial sectors of the UK including Edinburgh.


Hear both Mr McMillan and Mr Fraser here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b018cv18/Good_Morning_Scotland_29_12_2011/ – 2hrs 08 mins 30 secs