Opposition MSPs hail victory in vote to save board of HIE
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.