CBI Scotland – who does it speak for?


by Calum Cashley

I was intrigued by the latest bombast and nonsense from Iain McMillan of CBI Scotland in his New Year message when he criticised the Scottish Government’s pursuit of a policy that was in the manifesto on which it got elected – independence.  Mr McMillan’s anti-SNP politics have been played out in public in the past and his membership of the Calman Commission and Labour’s literacy commission have called his impartiality into question but I thought it might be worthwhile taking the time to look past the blinkers that he wears and look at who it is that he actually represents; of which tribe is this man a tribune?

Scotland has 296,780 business enterprises – up 1,400 in a year and up 17,290 since the SNP came to power; a performance during a recession that exceeded the performance of the previous three years when times were good – of which 1,500 have more than 500 employees and a further 3,655 have between 50 and 249 employees – 4,155 substantial Scottish businesses – 2,265 of the medium sized enterprises are headquartered in Scotland and 430 of the large ones; that’s 2,695 substantial businesses not only operating in Scotland but headquartered here (an increase in percentages from previous years) – and then there are all the small Scottish-owned enterprises to add – another 146,065.  You would think that CBI Scotland, whose Director gets so much media attention, would have a fairly big percentage as members.

CBI Scotland doesn’t publish its membership online, more’s the pity, but the CBI has a business directory which you can browse at your leisure, and I did just that.  You don’t have to be a member of the CBI to get listed so not every business listed will be a member but I reckon that the number of businesses which would pay for the listing without being members would be fairly small so I went right through the entire directory and noted which ones had Scottish addresses and found that CBI Scotland’s membership is, at most, 90.  That’s not a typo, it’s 90 – nine zero.

Of that 90, though, 3 are universities, 1 is the commercial arm of a university, 9 are quangoes or publically owned companies (TIE and SECC are the companies), 8 are trade bodies, 1 is a BID district, 6 are branches or subsidiaries of other companies, and only 62 are Scottish companies.  62 out of the 148,760 Scottish companies – 0.04%.  I’ll try to be fair and acknowledge that it’s unlikely that many small enterprises would think of joining the CBI (although there is some evidence that this is not strictly true) and I’ll just take the larger and medium sized enterprises – 62 out of 2,695 or 2.3% – hardly speaking for the vast swathes of Scottish business opinion.  Additionally, I know that directors and owners of some of these companies are SNP supporters or have already expressed their appreciation of the work that has been done by the SNP Scottish Government.

The Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, by contrast, has more than 20,000 members and we hardly hear from them although they appear to put out more comment than CBI Scotland.  Could it be because FSB Scotland contributes positively and meaningfully to public debate in Scotland, quietly winning support and benefits for its members and that doesn’t make for good stories while the rather more florid utterances from the CBI do?

For everyone’s delight and delectation and for the purposes of sharing information, here is the full list:


  • Robert Gordon University
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • College of Arts and Social Sciences (part of Dundee University)
  • GU Holdings Ltd (commercial arm of Glasgow University)

Quangoes and similar

  • VisitScotland
  • Skills Development Scotland
  • SQA
  • Scottish Enterprise
  • Investors in People Scotland
  • Business Stream (part of Scottish Water)
  • SECC (91% owned by Glasow Council)
  • TIE (Edinburgh’s favourite tramline layer)

Trade Bodies

  • Food Trade Association Management
  • Graphic Enterprise Scotland
  • Homes for Scotland
  • Publishing Scotland
  • Scottish Building Federation


  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland
  • The Scotch Whisky Association

BID district

  • Essential Edinburgh

Branches or Subsidiaries

  • AG Holdings
  • Conoco Phillips
  • Heineken
  • ISS Facility Services Ltd
  • UPM-Kymmene
  • Weber Shandwick

Companies (split into business sectors)
Banks and financial inc insurance and investment

  • Airdrie Savings Bank
  • Alliance Trust
  • Clydesdale Bank
  • Royal Bank of Scotland Group
  • Standard Life


  • Weir Group
  • Imes Group Holdings
  • Jacobs
  • Balmoral Group Holdings
  • Hydrasun Ltd

PR & Consultants, etc

  • BiP Solutions
  • Chance Associates
  • Core Solutions Group
  • Eglinton
  • Glen Abbot Ltd
  • Indigo
  • James Barr
  • Kynesis
  • Laura Gordon Associates
  • Liddell Thomson
  • Millstream Associates
  • Munro Consulting
  • SI Associates
  • Gupta Partnership

Energy, Oil and Marine

  • Aquamarine Power
  • Cairn Energy
  • Flexitricity
  • Lithgows
  • Scottish Power
  • Wood Group Management Services


  • Ledingham Chalmers
  • Maclay, Murray & Spens
  • MacRoberts
  • McGrigors
  • Morton Fraser
  • Shepherd and Wedderburn


  • Elphinstone Holdings
  • Lochay Investments
  • Townhead Properties
  • Construction & Supplies
  • WF Watt (Contracts)
  • Miller Group
  • Stewart Milne Group
  • McAlpine & Co
  • Mactaggart & Mickel

The rest

  • Devro (food wrappers)
  • FirstGroup
  • Havelock Europa (furniture)
  • Henry Winning & Co (string & twine)
  • ICS (education)
  • John G Russell (transport)
  • Kube Networds (telecom)
  • M Computer Technologies
  • Memex Technologies (electronic shop equipment)
  • Morris Leslie Group (various)
  • Scottish Leather Group
  • STV Group
  • Coverdale Organisation (training)
  • Edrington Group (distillers)
  • Skene Group (hotels)
  • Tomatin Distillery
  • Tullis Russell Group (paper)

So there you have it – the membership of CBI Scotland.

Read the views of Calum Cashley at http://calumcashley.blogspot.com/