North Liberal Democrats have today demanded the First Minister keeps HIE local.
The party’s Highlands and Islands representatives have claimed that local businesses and communities don’t believe centralising HIE will do anything to advance the interests of the Highlands & Islands.
Orkney MSP Liam McArthur, who has been campaigning to keep HIE local, said “People across the Highlands and Islands have had enough of the SNP’s obsession with centralisation. As we know from the last 9 years it rarely, if ever, benefits rural and island areas.”
Mr McArthur added: “When Ministers are unable to name any businesses or organisations that back their plans, when leading Highland-based economist Tony Mackay describes the idea as a “retrograde move”, and when former HIE Chair, and SNP member, Professor Jim Hunter denounces the move as ‘ministerial control freakery’ and ‘centralism run riot’ then its time these damaging proposals were consigned to the dustbin”.
With the Scottish Government’s Enterprise and Skills review, SNP Ministers have provoked a furious response with their plans to abolish the board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise in favour of a new “overarching” board for enterprise, skills and tertiary education funding.
In a joint letter to the First Minister, Liberal Democrats from across the Highlands and Islands challenged her to “Stop, listen and think again”.
The letter continues: “The businesses and communities we represent require tailored support. That can only be provided by an economic development agency that is informed by and reflects the needs of the Highlands and Islands.
“Passing control of decisions to a super board based in the central belt will do nothing for the interests of the Highlands & Islands. Instead, it risks fundamentally undermining HIE’s remit to strengthen communities.
“Liberal Democrats believe that, wherever possible, people should be empowered to take the decisions that shape their lives. It is why liberals such as Jo Grimond, Russell Johnston and George Mackie fought so hard to make the case for an agency to serve the needs of the Highlands and Islands. It was needed 50 years ago, and it is needed now.”