Business leaders attending Thursday night’s CBI dinner in Scotland – to be addressed by David Cameron – are facing a cut-price menu to avoid falling foul of electoral spending rules covering the independence referendum, writes George Parker.
The CBI was told that since it was providing a platform for Mr Cameron to make the case against independence – and not offering a similar platform to the Yes side – it was not allowed to spend more than £10,000 on the annual event.
That meant that the dinner in Glasgow had to be scaled back, with a reduced menu and the scrapping of the usual fripperies, including flowers. “It will be a more modest affair,” said one CBI insider.
The number of guests was also capped at 230 to avoid topping the spending limit and breaching Electoral Commission rules. The CBI has spoken out against the risks of Scottish independence but is not registered as a campaigner in the referendum.
“We are of the view that the CBI’s dinner does constitute campaigning and as a result we have sought detailed assurances from them and their suppliers about the cost of this event,” the Electoral Commission said.
“As a result of the information we’ve received, we’re content that the CBI will not be spending more than the £10,000 limit that would require them to formally register as a campaigner at the referendum.”
The CBI said it had already provided detailed costings to the commission in advance of the event, to ensure that it is compliant, and would comply with the commission’s request to supply further post-event costings.