The Scottish Liberal Democrats have condemned a report published today which recommends the end of the real governance board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Orkney MSP Liam McArthur and Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, who have been campaigning to keep HIE local, have described the proposals as nothing less than “absolute control by Ministers of Highlands & Islands Enterprise.”.
Following stiff opposition to government proposals to centralise the dedicated Highlands and Islands development agency, Scottish Ministers commissioned Lorne Crerar, Chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, to chair a review of governance as part of the Enterprise and Skills review.
The report, published today, proposes to reduce the HIE agency board to a “Delivery Board”. The report also fails to rule out a minister chairing the new overarching board. Instead it suggests “a Ministerial Chair would give a clear authority to the strategic board”.
The report comes on the back of opposition parties uniting in Holyrood last month to defeat the government and reject plans to centralise the board of HIE. The First Minister has so far failed to confirm whether ministers would accept the vote to retain the HIE board.
Commenting, Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur MSP said:
“This report confirms everything a centralising government wants. This means absolute control by Ministers of Highlands & Islands Enterprise. Lorne Crerar might as well have done what he was asked and produced a justification for the HIE board abolition. His proposal is even worse. This is control from the centre – a delivery board that will do exactly what it is told by ministers.
“As recently as Monday, local councils and many others told the Deputy First Minister not to abolish the strategic decision making board of HIE. Now the government will do that, despite a majority of Parliament saying no. If the SNP now use ministerial powers to railroad these bad proposals through they will show utter contempt for Parliament.
“This is an acid test of the SNP Government. Do they accept the will of Parliament or not?”