By a Newsnet reporter
UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been left red-faced after it emerged a dinner event in Glasgow organised by the CBI has seen the head of the organisation attack the PM’s plans for an In/Out EU referendum.
Mr Cameron, who had made the trip to Scotland in order to launch an attack on independence, tonight found himself the subject of criticism by CBI President Sir Mike Rake.
In his address to guests at the dinner, Mr Rake took aim at Mr Cameron’s EU referendum, and said the uncertainty was having a negative impact on businesses and investment.
Mr Rake said: “We accept that calling a referendum on EU membership is a constitutional issue for government, but the ambiguity has already, and is increasingly, causing real concern for business regarding their future investment. Business is in no doubt that we must retain and secure our country’s global future. If we’re isolated, we cannot be our best.”
Commenting on the remarks, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“This is a humiliation for the Prime Minister on the same day one of his MPs has defected to UKIP, exposing the deep Eurosceptic seam running through the Tory Party which is dragging the UK ever closer to the exit door of Europe.
“For David Cameron to be lectured by one of the UK’s most senior business figures about the dangers of his in-out referendum on EU membership shows just how worried companies are about the prospect of the UK being taken out of Europe.
“For Scotland, the choice is clear – a Yes vote which will protect our place in the EU as an independent member, or a No vote which could see us dragged out of Europe against our will, shutting us off from a single market of more than 500 million people with potentially devastating consequences for jobs and investment.”
The attack by the CBI Chief comes on the same day that a Conservative MP announced he had defected to UKIP. Douglas Carswell, who is the MP for Clacton, made the announcement today saying he wanted to see “fundamental change in British politics”.
The defection to UKIP is the latest evidence of a growing anti-European sentiment south of the border.
Meanwhile, Green Yes, the Scottish Green Party campaign for a Yes vote in the independence referendum, has criticising the CBI for giving a platform to Mr Cameron just three weeks before the independence vote.
Earlier this year CBI Scotland registered as a No campaigning body with the Electoral Commission, a registration that was later nullified after its Director General John Cridland said it was a mistake. Mr Cridland insisted the lobbying group would not take part in campaigning on behalf of Better Together, something that has now been shown to be false.
Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow and Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said:
“The CBI clearly have more money than sense. Staging a dinner with David Cameron rather than a balanced debate as voting is starting to take place makes clear their position as a right-wing partisan lobby group.
“Businesses in Scotland are rightly interested in what independence could mean for them but they deserve to hear a range of views. Scottish Greens see huge opportunities for Scotland to grow a greater variety of businesses, and more sustainable economic policies. We have a chance to ditch the failed approach of successive UK governments.
“The CBI’s austerity cheerleading, demand for privatisation of public services and continued bleating about tax cuts for highly profitable firms must be challenged, and I believe a Yes vote gives Scotland the opportunity to do just that.”