Scottish independence: BBC suspends its CBI membership

By James Cook
Scotland Correspondent, BBC News

image captionThe BBC said it would suspend its CBI membership to protect its neutrality

The BBC has announced that it is to suspend its membership of the employers' organisation the CBI from 30 May to 18 September.

A statement said the suspension would cover the period of the CBI's registration as a supporter of the pro-UK Better Together campaign.

A number of organisations have left the CBI because of its opposition to Scottish independence.

People in Scotland will vote on their country's future in September.

The statement from the BBC came after pro-independence backer, Business for Scotland, had questioned why the BBC had not resigned.

The statement said: "In order to protect the BBC's neutrality, the CBI and the BBC have agreed to suspend the BBC's membership during the business group's registration period under the terms of the Scottish Referendums Act 2013."

An identical statement was released by CBI Director-General John Cridland.

Several bodies have now quit the CBI after it registered with the Electoral Commission as a supporter of the campaign to keep the UK together.

The CBI said it was confident the "vast majority" of its membership agreed with its stance on independence.

The registration as a non-party participant allows it to spend up to £150,000 on campaigning during the regulated period from 30 May until the referendum on 18 September.

A statement from the pro-independence Business for Scotland group said: "It is inevitably damaging to the credibility and impartiality of both the BBC and ITV if they do not fully resign from the CBI.

"As things now are, and at least up until the 30 May when the BBC suspension of membership comes into play, people in Scotland are receiving news from two self-declared No supporting broadcasters. That is simply not acceptable."

Broadcaster STV has left the CBI but ITV said it would remain a member.

A spokesman for ITV added: "We remain entirely impartial on the debate over Scottish independence and our coverage of the issue will, as always, be completely fair and balanced."

Most of Scotland's universities, several quangos, the Law Society of Scotland and two businesses, Aquamarine Power and Balhousie Care Group, have left the organisation.

Meanwhile, Robert Gordon University said that after extensive consultations principal Ferdinand von Prondzynski had decided to suspend CBI membership "for the time being".

"This will be reviewed after the referendum and the university will maintain its position of neutrality," a statement added.

At the ballot box, voters in Scotland will be asked the "yes/no" question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

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