However successful, all organisations, whether they operate domestically or globally, are subject to influences over which they have little or no control – for example employment regulation, interest rates and the impact of government tax policy.
The CBI is the country’s foremost business lobbying organisation campaigning on behalf of UK firms to ensure the needs of commerce are understood by Government. We unashamedly seek to influence policy makers in the UK and, since our members are affected by developments in the global market place too, we have a dedicated lobbying presence through our offices in Brussels, Beijing and Washington DC.
The formation of the Holyrood Parliament, the increasing influence of the European institutions and the retention at Westminster of many powers of importance to business have led to a complex and ever demanding policy environment for Scottish companies.
Faced with this challenge, it is crucial that business speaks coherently, and where necessary, robustly to Government. CBI Scotland is uniquely placed to bring to policy development, and to decision-makers and influencers, an authoritative and convincing voice of business. The CBI has a number of strengths which make us a genuine force within policy making in Scotland. First and foremost is that we are an independent private sector organisation representing businesses across the country and without regard to size or sector.
Our policy positions are determined by our 47-member CBI Scotland Council elected from amongst the wider membership. Council establishes our key policy positions as well as responses to Executive or other public consultations. Members form ad-hoc policy groups to respond to issues as and when they arise and, together with staff, give evidence to parliamentary committees and represent the organisation at official events and on external working groups.
Occasional position papers are produced, most recently on the debate about fiscal autonomy and the powers of the devolved parliament. We also produce fresh research and attempt to lead debate on issues, e.g. our ‘Planning for Growth: The Business Agenda for Planning Reform’ document three years ago breathed fresh impetus into the effort which ultimately led to the enactment of the recent Planning Bill.
We meet regularly with Ministers, civil servants, parliamentarians and opposition politicians to press our case. The period since the publication of our Business Manifesto for the recent Scottish election was very intense and we met with each of the main party leaders and their advisers.
We make common cause with other organisations for mutual benefit, and undertake numerous speaking engagements to promote the business message on a variety of topics – migrant workers, corporate homicide, transport, public service reform and enterprise education to name but a few from the past few months alone.
Our lobbying is effective as recent decisions testify – restoration of business rates parity with England; rejection of more onerous Scotland-only legislation on corporate homicide; reforms to the planning system without third party rights of appeal or community rights of notification; the sensible compromise on New Year’s Day trading ban; transport projects such as M74 and A80.
With Holyrood dominating much of the debate in the media, it can be easy to forget the importance of other legislatures to Scotland’s commercial life. Scots MPs remain a powerful and influential force, which is why CBI Scotland has an active programme of engagement with MPs and holds regular briefings and receptions at Westminster. Our members regularly contribute and are actively engaged in CBI policy making at UK level. They also undertake lobbying and fact-finding visits to Brussels and to Washington DC.
David Lonsdale is the Assistant Director of CBI Scotland.