Northern Isles MSPs Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott have branded SNP efforts to close down the row over scrapping the board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) board as “a panicked attempt to save face”.
Scottish Government proposals to centralise the dedicated Highlands and Islands development agency have been met with stiff opposition. Leading economist Tony Mackay has described the move as “retrograde” and former HIE Chairman Professor Jim Hunter has denounced the plans as ‘ministerial control freakery’ and ‘centralism run riot’.
In an attempt to roll back the Scottish Government’s proposals, one SNP MP has called on their own government to ensure HIE retains its own management or advisory board in addition to the merger. Meanwhile, another SNP MSP has called for the government to instead base the new overarching board in the Highlands.
Mr McArthur and Mr Scott MSPs, who have campaigned against the merger and helped the Liberal Democrats launch a petition to keep HIE local, have dismissed these conflicting SNP proposals.
Commenting, the Northern Isles MSPs said:
“The SNP are now in a blind spin over the future of Highlands & Islands Enterprise. Ministers want to abolish the Board. Nationalist backbenchers agree. Now a SNP MP wants to keep the Board but make it accountable to the centralised pan-Scotland Board in the central belt. That is a proposal based not on logic or good decision making, but on a panicked attempt to save face.
“What a shambles. There is no support for the Scottish Government's abolition plan. No one suggested abolishing the HIE board during the government's consultation. They have failed to bring this plan to Parliament for a vote. It is a vote the SNP know they would lose.
“Removing strategic decision making over economic development from the Highlands & Islands will damage the region. It is a centralisation too far. Rather than come up with more convoluted ways to justify a policy no-one supports. Ministers should now just abandon their plans to abolish HIE's board. “