CBI Scotland’s agenda questioned after latest political remarks by leader


By a Newsnet reporter
Business lobby group CBI Scotland is facing allegations that it is failing to properly represent the views of its Scottish members after Chair Linda Urquhart attacked the Scottish Government’s plans for a referendum on independence.
SNP Westminster Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP last night questioned whether the latest in a series of politicised statements from the organisation’s head were actually representative of the business community in Scotland.

In a dinner in Glasgow last night the CBI Scotland chief claimed that an independence referendum could damage the Scottish economy.  Ms Urquhart also questioned whether such a referendum would be legal and insisted that there should be no third choice on the ballot paper and that the Scottish parliament should seek the consent of Westminster before going ahead.

Her remarks were dismissed by the SNP’s Stewart Hosie as not being representative of Scotland’s business community.  The SNP MP also highlighted the SNP’s overwhelming mandate following the Holyrood elections in May, and warned that the CBI’s credibility was being undermined by their constant “blundering” into the constitutional debate.

The SNP MP highlighted criticism by leading Scottish business people as evidence that CBI Scotland was misrepresenting the views of members on issues related to powers for the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Hosie, who also attended the CBI Scotland Annual Dinner in Glasgow, said:

“This is not the first time CBI Scotland has blundered into the constitutional debate and this latest intervention will fuel concerns that the CBI’s leadership has a political rather than a business agenda.

“Given the overwhelming mandate the SNP secured at the recent elections, with broad support from businesses big and small, there must be a question over whether CBI is even speaking for its membership, let alone the wider business community.”

The senior SNP MP claimed that continual politicised attacks from CBI Scotland’s leaders had led to prominent business people distancing themselves from the organisation.

Mr Hosie insisted that the Scottish government would hold to its election pledge of a referendum on independence and added:

“We believe that the people of Scotland should have the right to vote in a single referendum agreed by the Scottish Parliament, on a published proposal, which is then implemented – exactly as was done for the two-question devolution referendum in 1997.”

In 1997 the CBI were criticised for making claims about businesses’ position on the then devolution referendum.

The organisation is often cited by the Scottish main stream media as representing ‘business chiefs’ however there have been a series of claims that they routinely fail to consult members and often issue public statements that are in fact just the personal views of the organisation heads.

Last summer leading businessmen Jim McColl accused former CBI Scotland chairman Iain McMillan of misrepresenting the views of his own members.  Mr McMillan had attacked the SNP’s desire to see more tax powers for the Scottish parliament.

Mr McColl also claimed that CBI Scotland represented less than 10% of Scotland’s business leaders.

According to their website CBI Scotland is “Scotland’s pre-eminent business organisation, representing the views of 26,000 companies.”