Victory for Business for Scotland as CBI is forced to register as part of the No Campaign

Breaking News

Since Business for Scotland broke this story several CBI members have been telling us they are dismayed or disappointed with the CBI stance.  This press statement has just been released by Aquamarine Power a CBI member that is not a member of Business for Scotland.

>>Today (Friday April 18) it has been revealed the CBI has registered with the Electoral Commission as a backer of the NO campaign against Scottish independence.

Responding to the news Martin McAdam, Chief of Executive Officer of wave energy company Aquamarine Power (a member of the CBI)  said:

“Businesses do not vote, people vote. The CBI has registered with the Electoral Commission as a NO campaign backer without consultation with its members. As a business Aquamarine Power has been firmly neutral on the matter of independence. We have adopted this view after consultation with our Board and Management Team and as a consequence we can no longer remain members of the CBI. Although Aquamarine Power’s staff and Board Members may have personal views on the matter of independence, this has no influence on our agreed company position.”

Martin P. McAdam
Chief Executive Officer

Breaking news II

The Sunday Herald’s front page, released Saturday 19th of April, reports that Visit Scotland and Scottish Enterprise have now also left the CBI.

Todays Exclusive 

CBI Under PressureThe CBI has, under pressure from Business for Scotland, registered with the Electoral Commission Scotland (ECS) as part of the No Campaign. It has done this against the stated positions of its member companies some of which support independence and the vast majority of which have been at pains to stay neutral.

This is major setback for the No Campaign and an unsustainable position for the CBI. Unable to motivate the vast majority of the business community to support their scare stories, the No Campaign have tried to hijack a business network which should have – in accordance with its membership – remained neutral on the referendum.

This is a major victory for Business for Scotland. We have been calling in public and requesting in private of the Electoral Commission Scotland for months that the CBI is asked to register as part of the No camp. Business for Scotland is a business representative network like the CBI, although our focus is on representing SMEs which are actually based in Scotland. SMEs represent 99.3pc of the Scottish private sector businesses. Our individual members each sign a business declaration in favour of independence. We have always accepted we will register as a campaign participant once the CBI has and we will now do so.

This move by the CBI is unprecedented. They have now declared themselves as part of the No Campaign without seeking the permission and sign-off of its members in Scotland. The CBI has also refused to release an explanation of its membership numbers in Scotland.

Tony Banks, Chairman of Business for Scotland, owns Balhousie Care Group which is a CBI member and was not consulted. Several members of the CBI have today contacted Business for Scotland to express deep concern that their organisations have effectively been registered as part of the No Campaign. There will be more on that soon.

The CBI has never represented its members on this issue and clearly now no longer represents anything but the views of its No Campaign supporting officials.

Many questions will now be asked in the coming days. 

First, why was there no transparent sign-off by the whole Scottish membership? Any anonymous consultative exercises involving a few carefully selected members are unrepresentative. The position of most CBI members is well known. Given the majority are declared neutral on the referendum, what mandate do the officials claim to actually have for registering as a No campaign participant? Several CBI members are pro-independence so why are their views not represented?

Secondly, many companies now must feel they have been put in an impossible position. How sustainable is this situation for many of the CBI’s members? What concerns will they raise about governance within the CBI? What will shareholders of member companies have to say about this? The funds of taxpayers through public sector members of the CBI are now presumably being used to fund campaigning for the No Campaign? Is this even legal?

Recently, the CBI has put itself forward to be neutral chairs of debates involving Business for Scotland at the same time as adopting a public position against independence – what does this say about their honesty?

John Cridland, the CBI Director General, gave interviews earlier this month presenting the CBI as a business group against independence but Claire Stewart the presenter of Scotland Tonight doggedly pressed Mr Cridland as to whether Scottish members had been consulted on the report and policy decision. Twice he refused to say. Such evasiveness clearly indicates there has been no consultation of any substance.

CBI on the Better Together BoardCBI on the Better Together Board

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Last year the 2013 Chair of the CBI in Scotland, Nosheena Mobarik, was appointed a Director of the Better Together anti-independence campaign and has expressed her views clearly on a number of occasions, including in her CBI capacity. At the CBI annual dinner, she attacked the Yes Campaign arguing that: “the CBI has a rich engagement on constitutional matters” and that “our members approved a referendum strategy” that broadly follows that of Better Together. No evidence of members each agreeing to the policy against independence has been forthcoming and anonymous straw polls do not constitute proper governance.

John Cridland, Director General of the CBI UK-wide, put it more precisely when he said simply: “We are better together.”

Membership claims must now be scrutinised

The CBI claims to represent 240,00 companies in UK and 24,000 in Scotland but all attempts to identify membership seems to indicate only 80 or so members headquartered in Scotland. Why such a disparity?  It looks to be the case that the CBI membership figures are grossly inflated to make them appear to be a far more important business group in Scotland than they actually are.

The Daily Telegraph also recently reported on claims that the CBI does not represent the views of companies north of the border, pointing to Business for Scotland signing up 1,100 members at the time (now over 1,700). However, they stated that “this is dwarfed by the CBI, which claims to have around 24,000 members that employ 630,000 people”. There is currently no evidence to suggest that they have more than 80 members.

Has the CBI misled the media and public on its membership numbers both in Scotland and in the UK?  With perhaps less than 100 members in Scotland you would expect no more than a few thousand members across the whole of the UK. It seems fair to ask if they have decided to unilaterally represent all medium sized companies in the UK whether or not they have any connection to the CBI and without any proper consultation of those that do.

CBI Scotland council member Anthony Rush has admitted, when considering whether the CBI only has 100 members in Scotland that he does “not know where the true number of Scottish companies lies.”

CBI has no mandate to campaign for a No vote

Businesspeople have a wide range of views on the referendum and business groups should formally seek the views of their members in a transparent fashion before coming to policy conclusions.

Business for Scotland researchers called 22 CBI members: 3 stated they were Yes supporters but personally not on a corporate basis, 17 stated they were neutral and only 2 told us they were No supporters (again on a personal basis). In turn, it is clear the CBI does not have a mandate from their members to join the No camp, especially in the case of leading universities and public bodies.

Does the CBI membership not deserve better than blind compliance with the failed status quo or worse the likely future for Scotland’s economy after a No vote?

Business for Scotland has a mandate to campaign.

Leading entrepreneur Tony Banks is the Chairman of Business for Scotland and a CBI member

Leading entrepreneur Tony Banks is the Chairman of Business for Scotland and a CBI member

Comments from Tony Banks at the St. Columba’s Debate in London 25/03/14 to an audience of nearly 500.

“Business for Scotland believes that independence is in the interests of business and that Scotland’s economy will thrive with a yes vote. Our ranks are filled not exclusively but mostly with businesspeople running SMEs. We recognise that SMEs are 99.3% of the Scottish private sector. They are the lifeblood of Scotland’s growing economy. Likewise, we particularly benefit from the support of self-made entrepreneurs who more so than other businesspeople see change as an opportunity, not a threat.

By contrast, the CBI represents very few companies in Scotland and mostly those based in London. Much more importantly, on the question of Scotland’s future, they have shown themselves to be part of the No Campaign.  And not an impartial or thoughtful organisation representing well the interests of their membership”.

CBI’s track record of opposition to progress in Scotland

Ian McMillan has been Director of CBI Scotland for decades. Over that time the CBI has opposed every single move for greater economic powers for Scotland.

Under his watch the CBI

– Opposed devolution and the creation of the Scottish Parliament
– Opposed proposals of the Calman Commission
– Opposes independence

The people of Scotland know that the CBI were wrong on devolution and they are wrong again now.

CBI criticised for misrepresenting member views

Several CBI members who are mostly neutral on the referendum have complained publicly that Ian McMillan and the CBI have misrepresented their views on independence.

These include “Barclays Wealth, Edrington Group, Aquamarine Power and event the Law Society of Scotland who all publicly denied Mr McMillan’ claims on independence.”


The CBI have opposed all constitutional progress in Scotland. They said that devolution would be bad for business and bad for Scotland, they were wrong then and they are wrong now. They have very serious questions to answer about their inflated and misleading membership claims, claiming 24,000 members in Scotland when there is no evidence that they have more than 80 (some of which are public sector). They lack all credibility and can be fairly accused of dishonesty.

With a track record in misrepresenting the views of their membership they have put their members in Scotland in an impossible position. Many of their already small Scottish membership must be asking themselves how they can remain members of the CBI now that it is officially part of the No Campaign.

John Cridland in debate with myself on BBC Good Morning Scotland this month pulled out of a second debate later that day. Tony Banks and many others stand available to debate with Mr Cridland or Mr McMillan at any time.

This amounts to a desperate attempt by the No Campaign under pressure from Business for Scotland. However, with no mandate and limited members in Scotland this move can also be seen as a huge own goal with significant implications for the campaign as a whole.

Join Business for Scotland – Read More

More info

Debate between CBI John Cridland and Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp CEO of Business for Scotland on GMS  “The CBI is not a balanced organisation and is not asking important questions of the No Campaign”.

Terry Murden on the CBI: What must be avoided is a descent into dirty tricks and deceit.

Claire Stewart interview” There has been no consultation with members, includes short interview with Tony Banks.

Who does the CBI speak for and how many members does it really have in Scotland?

About the author

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the Founder and Chief Executive of Business for Scotland. Before becoming CEO of Business for Scotland Gordon ran a business strategy and social media, sales & marketing consultancy.

With a degree in business, marketing and economics, Gordon has worked as an economic development planning professional, and in marketing roles specialising in pricing modelling and promotional evaluation for global companies (including P&G).

Gordon benefits (not suffers) from dyslexia, and is a proponent of the emerging New Economics School. Gordon contributes articles to Business for Scotland, The National and Believe in Scotland.


  • […] This move by the CBI is unprecedented. They have now declared themselves as part of the No Campaign without seeking the permission and sign-off of its members in Scotland. The CBI has also refused to release an explanation of its membership numbers in Scotland. Tony Banks, Chairman of Business for Scotland, owns Balhousie Care Group which is a CBI member and was not consulted. Several members of the CBI have today contacted Business for Scotland to express deep concern that their organisations have effectively been registered as part of the No Campaign. There will be more on that soon. The CBI has never represented its members on this issue and clearly now no longer represents anything but the views of its No Campaign supporting officials.  […]

  • Recent rant:

    CBI today/yesterday recently declared with the Electoral Register its support for Independence. It will mean it will be able to spend upto £150,000 of its members money in support of the Union.

    CBI claims it represents businesses in Scotland it also claims that it has asked questions that the SNP are not able to answer thus its now officially supporting the NO campaign.

    As a sole trader or a small business I just like to say the CBI does not represent the vast majority of businesses in Scotland. Even the CBI officially confirms its members officially employs around half a million scots or maybe 10% of the population.

    The CBI Scotland has no official means to allow the public to challenge their view points, no facebook page, no twitter account, no Linkedin group, email address or even an official scottish CBI website. It is as if the CBI Scotland speaks but does not have any physical presents. Any news broadcasts or interviews with any CBI Scotland representative is always from a news interview room just outside Westminster.

    And the few members it does have, one needs to question if the CBI listens to their views. It is clear from some of the organisations leaving this private social club they made no attempts to seek the views/advise from their scottish members.

    The CBI has spent time producing pro union reports basically asking unanswerable questions. When no one from the Yes campaign are able to answer their unanswerable questions they claim the Yes campaign are “not being honest”

    First of all, while many of us here support Independence there is clear questions which will never be answered as it requires an agreement from both the UK and Scottish governments. This includes questions on currency, trade, border, pensions and many other issues. We already know what the current scottish government position would be on this and many other issues however this depends on any final agreement with the UK government.

    The UK government has already ruled out any kind of discussions with the Scottish government so no one can ever be 100% sure what will happen after Independence. It is questions at this time only the UK government can answer, refuses to answer and reverts the questions back the YES team.

    All we can do is make assumptions on what will happen and assumptions on any agreements between the UK and scottish governments after Independence, assumptions that the YES scotland has already tried to make.

    For small businesses independence is going to be a clear advantage as you will end up having a government who is more likely to listen to the concerns of small businesses and the capacity for smaller government to regulate will be limited. In the long run it will put smaller businesses at a near equal footing to much larger business.

    IF westminster decides to put trade barriers up between scotland/England such as border controls this would benefit local small business from temporary reduction of competition from south of the border but the cost will be to the short term consumer choice. However in the long run will result in new startups to fill in these market demands left behind from the UK companies withdrawing/marketing their products/services in Scotland.

    The benefits to small/ & local businesses will be to the price to the few large UK corporations that the CBI represents. The CBI is virtually in bed with the UK government who donates to the Conservative party in return they are granted special favours such as going on UK government sponsored trade trips.

    From whatever angle you look the CBI clearly does not represent businesses in Scotland but rather has become the mouthpiece for the UK conservative government.

    Independence will bring logistical challenges to all business however this is nothing new. I have already scrapped two of my supplies, change my product range and constantly facing technical/marketing/competition challenges. IF a real business is not able to deal with this basic logistical challenges then these Individuals who run these businesses should not be in business at all. Surely the challenges business will face will be no worse than the challenges met in 2008/1994/1976 which resulted in millions being put out of work.

    End of rant.


    • When you say ” CBI officially confirms its members officially employs around half a million scots or maybe 10% of the population”. This is just not the case – they have less than 80 members headquartered in Scotland and only say they represent the views of 24,000 business in Scotland not that they have 24,000 members – they say this to mislead. Also its worth noting that several BFS members are also CBI members (one less as of yesterday) and the majority of the big employers are neutral on independence.

      • Hi Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp

        You write “they have less than 80 members headquartered in Scotland” which is maybe true however however as a so called organisation(CBI) most of their members are “large” corporations who have their HQ within the M25 region (south east). They claimed in a debates that they the CBI organisation represent businesses that employs 500,000 scots.

        With most large organisations having their HQ in the south east this should be no surprise. However it should be noted nearly 60% of scots are employed by small to medium size businesses located here in Scotland.

        If what the CBI says is true and they only have 60 members in Scotland this leads on to further questions.

        – Why do most large corporations have their HQ in the south east but not elsewhere in this Kingdom?

        – How many of the highly skilled workforce within these large corporations are based outwith the south east?

        From my own experience working with in one of these large corporations, if you want to work up the career ladder then you need to move/relocate south of the border.

        For any student who leaves University to get a skilled job specially in one of these large “corporations” they have to locate themselves to the south east. This may explain why nearly 600,000 scots over the decades have relocated south of the border.

        Would you agree the reasons why many of these organisations locate their HQ in the south east is due to the travel links and large investment banks.

        Would these investment banks more likely to invest in large corporation located locally in the south east to one which is located in Scotland?

        Do you believe the large transport links is due to Westminster bias towards the south east Airports by only granting limited flight access to the few south east Airports over other UK airports. For example a flight from China/Russia can only land in just a few south east airports.

        IF a scottish business wishes to import/export via sea freight it needs to go through one of the UK custom points with none located in Scotland. Goods needs to be shipped via Liverpool or Swansea.

        Does this put Scottish based Manufacturers at a disadvantage due to the added cost of fuel tax /time of shipping goods to/from south of the border and also makes it more attractive for a manufacturers to be located in/around Liverpool

        Had there been any attempts over the decades to open a freight service in the clyde. Has planning permission been denied as it may put jobs around liverpool at risk?

        From the outset one can assume the existing system is more tailored to listen and address concerns of large corporations located in the south east but to the price/cost to small/medium size organisations located elsewhere in this Kingdom.

        What is your own personal viewpoint?

  • Of course it will make great headlines though, ‘Yet more companies leave the CBI’. If I were a spin doctor I would distance myself from the fact they did it under pressure from business for Scotland, it would have more of an impact that way.

    • I reckon someone/body had to get the CBI to come clean in public and I say good on BfS to force the issue. But now that the train has started and the issue will remain in the news of its own accord, I would like BfS to now move onto addressing in detail each of “The Facts” documents on the BT website. It would be a shrewd move on the part of BfS to keep moving the conversations forward to focus on all the areas in which the BT campaign is sadly lacking. We also need to address the issues raised in the ICM poll as reported in The Scotsman on Sunday, and in the main how to persuade the women of Scotland to go for independence.

  • First off let me say I am a yes, however it seems like Business for Scotland pressured the CBI into registering, and the only error they have made is to not consult the other businesses. Which they will do in time. Essentially you have bullied them into registering and then when they don’t do it quite right you jump on them. Unless I have completely misread the opening part.

    “The CBI has, under pressure from Business for Scotland, registered with the Electoral Commission Scotland (ECS) as part of the No Campaign. It has done this against the stated positions of its member companies some of which support independence and the vast majority of which have been at pains to stay neutral.”

    I’m not sure what you have achieved here? apart from making me think Business for Scotland are incredibly fatuous. How can I take this kind of behaviour seriously?

    All you have done is show that you are a yes and your members have signed forms saying they are a yes, and the CBI is a no but they haven’t asked their members if they are a no or not. It’s a ploy to get headlines when companies leave the CBI. In contrast no company will of course leave business for Scotland as the mandate is signed on membership.

    • Sorry but there is a far bigger picture, for example are you aware that :

      Scottish independence:STV quits CBI over No stance – The Scotsman:

      Other members include the Law Society, Scottish Enterprise, various universities, several industry bodies who have declared as neutral, quite a few major public bodies who are potentially legally not able to be members of an organisation that is signed up to the No campaign. Three resignations and one compliant so far it would be a brave man to bet that it will end there!

      • Did you read my post? it is a move designed entirely to leave members no choice but to leave. Promoting business for Scotland. The neutral members are also left with no choice. It was a very shrewd political move great chess.

      • Have you read the reason STV gave for leaving ?
        As a media company they have to remain neutral … hardly earth shattering is it ?

        • All the business that are leaving are doing so as they are neutral. The point is the CBI didn’t tell their own council members they were planning on doing this or they would have known this would happen. The CBI has put itself forward as a nutria body with concerns about independence but they have no had to (presumably been told to) register with the electoral commission. the vast majority of the CBI members have a neutral stance – this means they have no mandate to declare for one side or another – hence the resignations.

  • At the time of the devolution referendum CBI Scotland admitted to 40 member companies after refusing to disclose the membership numbers. A count of 80, now, would sound reasonable. 24,000 must include commercial activities by Philip Hammond’s aliens from space. They are probably invisible.

  • Good work from Business for Scotland.
    The experience of some businesses in Scotland being misrepresented mirrors many trade union members being misrepresented by their union leaders.
    It would make a powerful statement to everyone in Scotland if businessmen and trade unionists were to come together to make a joint statement about being linked with the No campaign against their wishes.

    • Hurrah – good point there! It’s time for BfS and the ordinary hard working people and members of trades unions in Scotland to take a stand together on what really matters for both businesses, business owners and employees, and to show that many of the interests are fundamentally shared! That is the way forward for all types of business undertakings in Scotland. The CBI clearly only favours the narrow interests of big corporates based in London and the SE under capitalism v1.0.

    • I was interested to read the following in the BBC article via the link Gordon –
      “Responding to the withdrawals, a CBI spokesman said: “While any member deciding to leave is a cause for regret, the CBI is confident we have a mandate from the vast majority of our membership on the question of Scottish independence.””
      Unless I’ve misunderstood the meaning of the word “mandate” then the CBI clearly have not received a mandate if they’ve only canvassed the views and general opinions of a few of their members. And what exactly do they mean by “the vast majority”? What percentage exactly?
      If they make claims such as these they had better have a way of validating these with data.

  • Business for Scotland must push for the publication of the names of companies and organisations who have membership of the CBI. With the CBI registered as part of the official No campaign, the Scottish public has a right to know who is behind the CBI and where they are located. The CBI has a right to campaign against Scottish independence if its member so wish, but equally the Scottish public has a right to have names attached to this arm of the No campaign.

  • I really hope you have copied this to every newspaper and TV station in Scotland and beyond, although I suspect that even if you have, it is unlikely to see the light of day.
    BfS are doing a brilliant job.
    Keep up the campaign

  • The CBI have only brought shame and disgrace on their
    organisation and have encouraged more Scots to ignore any further scaremongering from the NO campaign.

    They obviously have little or no conception of the fierce pride the Scots have in their own country and their determination that they will not be dictated to by those attempting to repeat the shameful behaviour of the Westminster Government in the 1970’s.

  • Self intrest seems to be very much at the top of everybodies corporate agenda at the moment, when in fact it is about the ordinary person and what they decide. All this talk of doom an gloom, of buisnesess deserting the country, and economic melt down, do they not think that there are hundreds of buisness investors and banks, ( goodbye RBS ) ready and willing the step in and deal with us very hard working and inovative-inventive scots, i think they will be queuing up to step into the void.

  • The No campaign are desperate for funding and the money is not forthcoming in Scotland so It’s a fantastic way to get funding from outside Scotland – under the pretense of the Scottish business community backing a No vote.

    One could go so far as to say it’s “The best of both worlds” for Better Together.

    The only people they are cheating are themselves though. The phrase “polishing a turd” springs to mind.

  • […] Exclusive The CBI has, under pressure from Business for Scotland, registered with the Electoral Commission Scotland (ECS) as part of the No Campaign. It has done this against the stated positions of its member companies some of which support independence and the vast majority of which have been at  […]

Leave a Comment