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The underhand conduct of the Electoral Commission, the CBI and the UK Government that decided the outcome of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum

Scottish 2014 Independence Referendum: Guidance for the UK and Scottish Governments and Civil Servants

Departments need to take particular care in approaching activity during this period and civil servants must ensure that they conduct themselves in accordance with the requirements of the Civil Service Code. In particular, civil servants are under an obligation: not to undertake any activity which could call into question their political impartiality; and, to ensure that public resources are not used for party political purposes.

In addition, the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 (‘the Act’) sets out the legal framework for the referendum, including restrictions on Scottish Government publicity. The Act provides a 28-day restricted period from 22 August 2014 to 18 September 2014. During this period, the Scottish Government and Scottish public authorities will operate under statutory restrictions on the publication of information. Under the Edinburgh Agreement, the UK Government committed to act according to these same restrictions.

(https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/344686/Scottish_referendum_guidance_for_UK_government_civil_servants_on_their_roel_and_conduct_15_August_2015.pdf)

25 Aug 2014: Scottish Independence Referendum – The underhand conduct of the CBI and the UK Government

There was panic in the ranks of the UK government-led “Better Together” campaign following the second TV and final debate on Scottish independence when Alex Salmond emerged victoriously.

The Westminster Civil Service “defence of the Union” team, led by the most corrupt cabinet secretary in British political history, Sir Jeremy Heywood decided that something of significance needed to be thrown into the mix and this was manifest with the publication of a letter canvassed and organised by Amanda Harvie, leader of the Tory Party in Scotland, Media Response Unit.

Harvie, on being questioned about the spontaneity of the response to her canvassing activities admitted that many Business Leaders had refused to sign the letter or had failed to respond.

The letter devalued by the narrowness of its contributors and its political bias was signed by 133 business leaders from banking, mining, engineering, food, whisky and technology was published on the front page of every major newspaper and given repeated exposure over 3 days on a number of Scottish television programmes, stated that vital issues including currency, regulation, tax, pensions and support for exports around the world had not been resolved and a ‘Yes’ vote would be “bad for business”.

But supporters of an independent Scotland had their champions in Sir George Mathewson the former chairman of The Royal Bank of Scotland, who said: “Scotland’s vital financial services sector would flourish if Scotland voted “yes”. There is nothing to suggest that being part of a smaller country hinders a financial services industry. Switzerland, for example, has in Geneva and Zurich not one, but two of the world’s top 10 financial centres. Singapore, with 5 million people, is ranked 4th. Investment is an increasingly global business, where success depends much more on people than on borders.”

The economist and former head of Scottish Enterprise, Sir Donald MacKay, argued that an independent Scotland would be in better fiscal shape than the UK saying: “An independent Scotland should use that financial advantage to invest in re-engineering our economy towards industrial, manufacturing and tradeable services development.”

Jim McColl, one of Scotland’s richest men and head of the engineering investment business, Clyde Blowers Capital, was enthusiastic about Scottish independence and said he would consider returning home to Scotland from Monaco in the event of the “Yes” vote prevailed.

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of IAG, owner of British Airways, also said that independence would be good for Scotland.

Business for Scotland hit back with the statement: “Business for Scotland has 2,500 members who run businesses in Scotland, employ people across the country in a range of industries, and all believe that Scottish independence is in the best interests of Scotland and Scottish business. It’s a position reached after looking at the facts and figures and realising that, from a simple balance sheet point of view as well as other considerations, our best interests lie in becoming an independent country.”

27 Aug 2014: Scottish Independence Referendum – The CBI Dinner in Glasgow

Early in 2014, the CBI registered as a formal “Better Together” campaign group in the referendum but withdrew its registration after it prompted more than a dozen members to resign or suspend their membership. In an attempt to limit damage and save its membership base the CBI formally adopted a policy of strict neutrality in all matters pertaining to the referendum. It came as a bit of a bombshell therefore when the London based organisation betrayed its membership and convened a quasi impromptu dinner/business meeting in Glasgow on Thursday 27 August 2014.

The Electoral Commission had previously been formally advised of the CBI position of neutrality and asked the organisers for additional information, including the cost of the dinner then ruled that proposals did not constitute campaigning stating that it had received assurances that the cost would be within the spending limit of £10,000.

Subsequent inquiry revealed that the CBI had originally planned to host a much larger event but this had been greatly reduced to meet campaigning rules.

A revelation that confirmed, in the minds of many Scots, an act of collusion between the Electoral Commission and the UK government promoting the “No” campaign.

The lobbying event which was was promoted as a pro-Union ‘Better Together’ get together confirmed the falsity of the BBC’s much-hyped neutrality on the referendum following revelations that the corporation had been secretly paying the CBI tens of thousands of pounds membership fees each year.

Prime Minister Cameron who had cancelled all plans and meetings and rushed up to Glasgow to attend the dinner was humiliated when the CBI president Sir Mike Rake used the occasion to warn that the real danger to Scotland’s and Britain’s businesses came not from a “Yes” vote but from the Prime Minister’s promise to hold an in-out referendum on EU membership.

Not long after his address arch unionist supporting BBC reporter Nick Robinson interviewed Cameron and failed to challenge his wildly inaccurate assertions about a number of matters including a claim without foundation that the billions of pounds of deficit incurred the Bank of Scotland at the time of the World financial crash would need to be accounted for by an independent Scottish Government.

He also asked a previously rehearsed loaded question: “will you guarantee more powers to Scotland in the event of a “No” vote and, if so, when? In a clear breach of “Purdah,” Cameron replied: “Yes and soon is the very short answer to that.” View here: (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-28952197)

Alex Salmond later commented: “The dinner was a humiliating experience for Cameron since it exposed the powerful Eurosceptic seam within the Tory Party which is dragging Scotland ever nearer to the exit door of Europe. For Cameron to be lectured by one of the UK’s most senior business figures about the dangers of his in-out referendum shows just how worried companies are about the prospect of the UK being taken out of Europe. For Scotland, the choice is clear. A “Yes” vote which will protect our place in the EU as an independent member, or a “No” vote which results in us being dragged out of Europe against our will, shutting us off from a single market of more than 500 million people with potentially devastating consequences for jobs and investment. He wants his Unionist Government to continue to run Scotland from London with an occasional ministerial public eye visit just to keep an eye on things. Alistair Darling seems to have been shoved aside he’s not even allowed on to the phone-ins, he was replaced by (Labour MP) Douglas Alexander just a few hours ago and he has since been replaced by David Cameron. When is David Cameron going to have the guts to do what Alistair Darling did. Have a debate with me on Scotlands future.

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