Op­po­si­tion MSPs hail vic­tory in vote to save board of HIE

The Oban Times - - News - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­times.co.uk

SCOTTISH Gov­ern­ment plans to abol­ish the board of High­lands and Is­lands En­ter­prise (HIE) were shot down at Holy­rood last week.

Op­po­si­tion MSPs have been united in their fight against the SNP plans to scrap the HIE board and ab­sorb it into a Scot­land-wide body.

The gov­ern­ment was de­feated in it’s plans last Wed­nes­day (Jan­uary 18) by just one vote as op­po­si­tion voted 64 to 63 against the SNP.

Dur­ing the de­bate, Scot­land’s cabi­net sec­re­tary for the econ­omy Keith Brown stated HIE was not solely re­spon­si­ble for much of what has hap­pened in the High­lands, claim­ing suc­cess had come through a joint ef­fort be­tween the board and the gov­ern­ment.

He said: ‘One ex­am­ple is the huge Rio Tinto pro­ject. Sav­ing those jobs and build­ing on them will have a huge eco­nomic im­pact on the area, given the pop­u­la­tion spar­sity. That was the re­sult of a joint ef­fort be­tween Scottish En­ter­prise and HIE.’

And SNP MSP Kate Forbes hit back at what she de­scribed as ‘mis­lead­ing claims’ from op­po­si­tion MSPs about the fu­ture of HIE.

The Skye, Lochaber and Bade­noch MSP re­sponded to Con­ser­va­tive MSP Dou­glas Ross’s tweet claim­ing HIE would be moved to the cen­tral belt, say­ing it was ‘down­right lies’.

Dur­ing the de­bate Mr Ross said: ‘Call­ing Scottish Con­ser­va­tives liars be­cause we have taken such a strong po­si­tion against the SNP’s cen­tral­i­sa­tion plans begs the ques­tion why we have gained so much sup­port for our op­po­si­tion.’

Fol­low­ing the de­bate, Ms Forbes said there was room for im­prove­ment within HIE and hoped that stage two of the gov­ern­ment’s re­view would lead to help em­pow­er­ing the en­ter­prise.

She said: ‘Let’s be clear – HIE is not un­der threat. It will still be High­land- cen­tred, High­land-based and High­land-run.

‘I’m amazed at the gross ex­ag­ger­a­tion, empty hy­per­bole and ir­re­spon­si­ble su­perla­tives that have dom­i­nated the dis­cus­sion on HIE’s fu­ture in the past few months.’

Op­po­si­tion mem­bers have been cel­e­brat­ing the vic­tory.

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said: ‘ The gov­ern­ment’s only aim with this pro­posal is to con­tinue with its re­lent­less march to­wards cen­tral­i­sa­tion and con­trol.

‘This gov­ern­ment is ob­sessed with mov­ing power and ser­vices south, and re­peat­edly shows its con­tempt for the peo­ple of the High­lands and Is­lands.

‘I call upon all High­landers and is­lan­ders to say enough is enough and speak out against this wrong-headed plan.’

And leader of the High­land Coun­cil, Mar­garet David­son, said: ‘This vote sends a strong mes­sage to the Scottish Gov­ern­ment about its in­ces­sant cen­tral­is­ing agenda and we would now urge min­is­ters to re­con­sider their en­tire ap­proach.

‘We now ask the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide guar­an­tees that High­lands and Is­lands En­ter­prise will con­tinue to op­er­ate on the ba­sis of de­liv­er­ing lo­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing.’

Com­ment­ing af­ter the de­bate Mr Ross said cen­tral­i­sa­tion plans for HIE should now be shelved, and the gov­ern­ment should al­low HIE to get back to work.

He com­mented: ‘ The SNP should lis­ten to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, and now par­lia­ment, and scrap these ill-thought through pro­pos­als.’

MSP Kate Forbes, left, and coun­cil leader Mar­garet David­son.

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