MSP vows to reverse ‘control-freak’ plan
HIGHLANDS and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has said she is ‘astonished and angered’ by the Scottish Government’s response to HIE decision-making powers when a new overarching Scotland-wide board is established.
During Parliamentary Questions, the MSP asked if HIE will continue to decide its investment priorities following the creation of a single Scottish board for skills and enterprise organisations.
Rhoda Grant said: ‘ What I have been told is both unclear and deeply insulting to senior management of HIE.
‘The Cabinet Secretary [ Keith Brown] has stated that HIE senior management will continue to work in the same way as they do now but will benefit from the coordination provided by the new Scotland-wide statutory board.
‘I find this grossly insulting to both HIE senior management and existing board members who know the needs and strate- gic priorities of this area like the back of their hands.’
Keith Brown stated the Scottish Government would ‘expect’ a strong Highlands and Islands representation on the new central board, but Mrs Grant said: ‘At the very least I would think they would be ensuring there would be strong Highlands and Islands representation on the board.’
Mrs Grant also noted the cabinet secretary had given ‘no commitment to a single geographic HQ’ for the board. She said: ‘Does this mean they just haven’t decided where this new board would be located, or if it will have a base at all? Earlier this week we were told the Scottish Government has admitted it cannot give a list of organisations that back scrapping the HIE board. I can give them a lengthy list of organisations who totally oppose the scrapping of the HIE board. The more digging we do on this, the more it seems clear there was little or no thinking put into this wholly unpopular, control-freak decision. I will not give up the fight to have this decision reversed.’
MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber Ian Blackford hit back at the comments saying: ‘Myself and the Scottish Government have great ambitions for the Highlands and will work to bring more jobs to the area and strengthen the economy.
‘With my proposals, HIE not only retains its decision-making powers and can directly influence any wider discussions about the Highlands and Islands, but will also be able to call upon the increased resources provided by a larger organisation in achieving their aims. It will still be a very ‘local’ organisation, directly approachable by Highland businesses and its role is not being watered down. The HIE area will still be a priority with decisions made to ensure people and businesses are given the assistance they require.’