By Daniel Hunter

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has asked the Electoral Commission to nullify its application under the Scottish Referendum Act.

The CBI recently registered with the Electoral Commission as a supporter of the 'No' campaign in the debate over Scottish independence.

As a result, a number of firms, including several Scottish universities, cancelled their membership with the CBI due to neutrality. The BBC also confirmed it was suspending its membership until the referendum period was over.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said:

“The CBI is politically independent and impartial. Although the decision to register with the Electoral Commission was taken in good faith, in order to carry out normal activities during the referendum period, it has inadvertently given the impression that the CBI is a political entity — we are not and never will be.

“We have always said that the referendum is a decision for the Scottish people and we’re not telling people how to vote.

“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.

“Registration has raised a question as to whether we have changed the CBI’s role — we have not and that was never the purpose of registering.”

Following a review by the CBI board and in the light of legal advice from its lawyers and Queen’s Counsel it has emerged that the application should not have been made: it did not have approval under the CBI’s normal corporate governance procedures and was not signed by an authorised signatory. Therefore, the CBI has asked the Electoral Commission to render its application null and void with immediate effect.

Mr Cridland continued:

“We are working closely with the Electoral Commission and have asked them to accept our legal team’s advice and nullify our application with immediate effect.

“We have also given a firm assurance to the Commission that during the regulated period the CBI will not carry out any activities that fall within the terms of the regulations. This includes campaign broadcasts, sending unsolicited material to voters or holding any referendum-specific press conferences.

“As businesses work hard to secure the economic recovery, the CBI has a job to do on behalf of CBI members and their employees to help create the right conditions for the UK to grow and prosper - and we will continue to do that without fear or favour.”

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