LONDON May 1 Britain's main business lobby
group has canceled its status as an official campaigner against
Scottish independence following an outcry by some members who
feared that stance jeopardised their neutrality in an
increasingly heated debate.
The Electoral Commission agreed to a request by the
Confederation of British Industry (CBI) to scrub its
registration as a supporter of the anti-independence campaign
ahead of a Sept. 18 referendum.
The CBI, the leading group representing large employers in
Britain, said that following legal advice, the Electoral
Commission declared its registration void as its application was
not signed by an authorised signatory.
"The CBI is a politically independent and impartial body and
will ensure that it complies with Electoral Commission guidance
to safeguard its political independence," the CBI said in a
statement on Thursday.
The CBI has consistently opposed Scotland becoming
independent and breaking away from the United Kingdom, saying it
would cause uncertainty over currency, taxation, financial
regulation and European Union membership.
But some of its members were outraged when the CBI
registered with the Electoral Commission as required by any
organisations or individuals who want to spend more than 10,000
pounds ($16,800) on campaigning during the official referendum
period that starts on May 30.
Several organisations, including the BBC, two businesses,
universities and public agencies, resigned from or suspended
their membership of the CBI because they did not wish to be
linked to the anti-independence campaign.
CBI Director General John Cridland said the decision to
register was taken in good faith and had "inadvertently given
the impression that the CBI is a political entity".
He said the CBI would continue to raise questions but that
it no longer believed that official registration as a campaigner
was needed for it to carry out its normal functions.
"The CBI has a job to do on behalf of its members and their
employees to help create the right conditions for UK companies
to grow and prosper, wherever they operate across the world," a
CBI statement said.
"We will continue to do that without fear or favour."
The row broke out as opinion polls showed the gap between
the two sides narrowing, although nationalists are still behind
The CBI says it speaks on behalf of 190,000 businesses
across Britain, and that CBI members in Scotland employ around
500,000 people, about a quarter of the private-sector workforce.
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Angus MacSwan)