More resignations as CBI crisis deepens

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
The crisis hit CBI has suffered more resignations with news that a further five organisations have quit in protest at the body’s decision to officially join the campaign against Scottish independence.
 
Today the Law Society of Scotland, Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian universities, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland became the latest to withdraw from the organisation.

They join STV, Scottish Enterprise, Visit Scotland and Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh universities who all quit the CBI over the Easter break.

The resignation of Strathclyde University is acutely embarrassing for CBI Scotland director Iain McMillan who sits on the University’s advisory board.

The exodus follows the announcement by the CBI that it had registered with the Electoral Commission as an official campaigner on behalf of the anti-independence Better Together campaign.  The move will allow the London based body to spend up to £150,000 from May 30th until referendum polling on September 18th.

However several member organisations protested at the move which they said compromised their own impartiality.  There have also been claims that there was no consultancy prior to the CBI making the decision.

On Saturday broadcaster STV became one of the first organisations to quit the CBI.  A spokeswoman for STV said: “STV is a public service broadcaster with a duty of impartiality and as such we have no corporate or editorial position on the independence referendum in September.

“In light of CBI Scotland’s decision to register with the Electoral Commission we have no choice but to resign our membership of CBI Scotland forthwith.”

However the decision by the broadcaster was immediately attacked by the anti-independence campaign group Better Together, who described it as “ridiculous nonsense”.

The campaign group said: “The CBI has been asking questions about independence for years without a peep from STV.”  The Better Together spokesperson added: “It’s almost as if STV are worried a little too much about their relationship with the SNP.”

Commenting on the organisation’s decision to resign from the CBI, Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland said:

“Over the last three years, the Law Society has been an active but firmly non-partisan participant in the debate on Scotland’s future. We’ve asked difficult questions and raised issues that need addressed by both sides of the referendum campaign in order to better inform our members and the wider public.

“We do not believe we could credibly retain our impartiality whilst being a member of and actively contributing to another organisation which is formally registered with the Electoral Commission to campaign for a no vote. That is why we have resigned from the CBI today.”

A spokeswoman for the University of Strathclyde said: “The University of Strathclyde has reviewed its membership of CBI Scotland and has taken the decision to withdraw from the organisation.”

Glasgow Caledonian University said the CBI’s decision was “incompatible with the university’s neutrality”.

A spokeswoman added: “GCU will, however, continue to provide a forum for open debate on the independence referendum.”

A Skills Development Scotland spokeswoman said: “In light of the CBI’s decision to register as a campaign organisation for a ‘No’ vote in the referendum, SDS has no option but to resign as a member.”

The CBI has signalled it has no plans to refund members who have resigned.  A spokesperson said: “Refunds are not normally made.”