Monday, 21 April 2014

Shock as CBI backs No campaign

Okay, so my title is a little tongue-in-cheek. No-one can actually be surprised that the CBI is backing Better Together - at least no-one who's ever listened to them.

What is getting folk worked up into a lather today, though, is what this means for CBI members who are publicly funded and who therefore cannot endorse a political stance. Scottish Enterprise and VisitScotland resigned almost immediately. The Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh followed suit today. Others will surely follow.

The Yes campaign doesn't know whether to clap with excitement or shake its head in sorrow. 'Business For Scotland', one of the many Yes campaign organisations whose funding and backing is as murky as the haar that hit Edinburgh yesterday, claimed the CBI move as "a victory" on Sunday. Others in Yes say the move was ill-considered and is unneeded. Even smarter ones worry about the divisions this campaign is opening up in civic society, and whether they can be healed.

One thing seems now to be widely accepted, though. If the CBI adopts a political position, publicly funded organisations cannot remain members.

Right?

Oh, erm, maybe not.

Here they are endorsing Labour immigration policy:
"Labour’s proposal to move away from a one-size-fits-all net migration target is a positive step."
CBI, 10 April 2014.

Here they are condemning a Conservative budget announcement:
"We do not think capping fees at this level is wise"
CBI, 27 March 2014.

Here's an explicit demand for reform of EU trade regulations:
"Companies called for a number of EU reforms"
CBI, 21 March 2014.

And those examples are just from the last month. Look further back and you'll see arguments for cutting government regulations in 2012demands for lower taxes for oil and gas companies in 2011, and attacks on Scottish Government finance policy in 2010.

In fact the CBI has been actively campaigning across a whole range of political spheres for as long as it has existed. The idea that it has only now taken a position which is incompatible with publicly funded or impartial bodies being members is arrant nonsense.

So the real question isn't why the CBI has taken a view on Scottish independence. It's why Scottish independence is the first issue that publicly funded and impartial bodies have felt the need to object to.

And there are plenty of theories there. After all, the Scottish Government pays their wages. Who'd want to bite the hand that feeds?