British business group U-turns on Scottish independence

26th April 2014, Comments 0 comments

Britain's biggest employers' organisation, the CBI lobby group, sought Friday to disassociate itself from the campaign against Scottish independence after a backlash among its members north of the border.

The CBI has warned against Scotland breaking from the United Kingdom in September's referendum, and last week it emerged that it had registered its support for the 'No' camp with the Electoral Commission.

The move sparked anger among many of the 190,000 businesses represented by the CBI, and some, including Scottish government agencies VisitScotland and Scottish Enterprise, and broadcaster STV, withdrew from the organisation.

CBI director-general John Cridland announced Friday that registering with the Electoral Commission had been an "honest mistake" and the application would be nullified.

"We have always said that the referendum is a decision for the Scottish people and we're not telling people how to vote," he said.

"However, we do have a legitimate role as the UK's biggest business group in raising important questions on the big issues affecting businesses, jobs and growth, which we will continue to do."

The CBI says it only registered with the Commission to ensure it complied with referendum campaign regulations. It has now agreed not to take part in any campaigning activity.

In March, the CBI warned Scotland's continued economic success was best achieved as part of the UK, warning that First Minister Alex Salmond's economic plan "does not add up".

Salmond's Scottish National Party (SNP), which leads the devolved government in Edinburgh, wants Scotland to break the 300-year-old political union with the rest of the UK.

The three main parties in the British parliament -- Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats and the opposition Labour party -- are all opposed to independence.

Labour leader Ed Miliband on Friday sought to reject the SNP's claim that independence is the only way to secure a left-leaning government in Scotland.

If Labour won next year's British general election, he said, it would "take up the cudgel of social justice on behalf of the people of Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom".

A poll tracker by the Financial Times last week suggested that the pro-independence camp is gaining ground, at 39 percent support compared to 46 percent for the 'No' camp.

© 2014 AFP

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