MSP vows to re­verse ‘con­trol-freak’ plan

The Oban Times - - News - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­

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.’

Rhoda Grant.

Ian Black­ford.

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