Dudley wasn’t lobbying for a No vote claims BP but company refuses to back remarks

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
Oil giant BP has rejected claims that its CEO Bob Dudley was lobbying in support of a No vote in the independence referendum after he said he believed Great Britain should “stay together”.
 
In an official response to questions posed by Newsnet Scotland, the company said its chief was not “lobbying” and that the remarks were merely comments in response to questions posed by the BBC.

Mr Dudley hit the headlines last week when he appeared to back a No vote in the independence referendum.  Appearing on the BBC to discuss BP’s latest performance, the American was asked about his views on Scottish independence.

Responding, he said: “My personal view is that Great Britain is great and it ought to stay together,”.  The BP chief went on to cite connections with Europe and the currency of an independent Scotland as areas that were causing concern.

However asked if its CEO had broken company rules which forbid BP employees from taking part in party political activity or lobbying activities without authorisation, a BP spokesman denied its head had been lobbying and claimed the issue had been raised at the behest of the BBC.

In a statement, a spokesman said: “Last week Bob Dudley was interviewed at length by the BBC on the day of our 2013 financial results.

“After numerous questions about our results, he was also asked a question about Scotland, and responded with the comments you have seen – a reasonable topic for comment by the chief executive of one of the UK’s biggest companies, and one of Scotland’s biggest investors and employers. 

“You can see his answer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-26032266. This was neither commenting on party political matters nor lobbying.”

However the spokesman refused to confirm if Mr Dudley’s comments reflected the corporate view of BP.  The company aso refused to be drawn on two key areas highlighted by Mr Dudley.

On the issue of Europe, BP refused to confirm if it backed calls for the UK Government to seek clarification from the EC on the issue of Scotland’s membership following a Yes vote.  The company also refused to say whether it backed a currency union in the event of independence.

The refusal of the company to explicitly back Mr Dudley’s comments will be seen by some as evidence its CEO was not expressing official corporate concerns held by BP.  The claim that the issue of independence was raised, not by Mr Dudley, but by the BBC reporter, will also lead to speculation that the BP Chief was being used by the BBC in order to create headlines damaging to the Yes campaign.

Within hours of the BBC interview, leading figures from the No campaign had issued statements claiming Mr Dudley’s comments were proof that independence would harm Scotland’s economy.

Mr Dudley’s remarks, which placed the economy and businesses at the top of the referendum agenda, followed a period that had witnessed significant movement in favour of Yes on the issue of Scottish independence.  Several polls have indicated a move away from No.

This weekend the BBC revealed, that prior to the Dudley interview, it had already commissioned a poll which placed the economy at the top of referendum issues deemed important to voters.  The survey had been carried out between January 3rd and 10th, just weeks before Mr Dudley’s interview.

The broadcaster is coming under increasing pressure in Scotland with evidence mounting that suggests it is now favouring the No campaign in its news output.  A recent University study discovered that early evening news reports from the BBC and ITV, favoured the anti-independence campaign by a ratio of 3-2.

In January the BBC Trust announced it had found BBC Scotland guilty of having broken editorial guidelines on accuracy after a Reporting Scotland broadcast from over a year ago misrepresented the views of a foreign official on the issue of EU membership of an independent Scotland.  Despite the Trust finding that BBC Scotland had misled viewers, the broadcaster has refused to issue a correction or an apology.

 
[Newsnet Comment – This site has pursued BP for a response to its CEO’s remarks.  Two researchers, four phone calls and an email have now resulted in an official statement.  We have drawn our conclusions from the carefully worded statement.

There is now a very real question over the role of the BBC in this ‘stunt’ especially given the refusal to even put to Mr Dudley the fact that the issue of Europe can only be clarified by the Westminster Government.  Why was Mr Dudley not asked if he was in favour of a currency union?

This is almost a carbon copy of the Lucinda Creighton interview in 2013, where obvious questions that a third year journalism student would know to ask, were not asked.  That broadcast was deemed to have misled viewers by the BBC Trust.

The lack of curiosity on the part of the Scottish media is also shocking.  This story was the main news item throughout last week, and led to attacks on Alex Salmond and the Yes campaign, yet not one reporter appears to have sought the official view of BP.

By posing very selective and obviously leading questions to the CEO of BP, the BBC has effectively influenced the narrative of the referendum debate in favour of the No campaign.  The broadcaster has, de-facto, taken the side of those who oppose independence.]