Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has warned a new central, overarching board should not be allowed to diminish the Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s independence as the Scottish Government announced HIE’s board will be retained.
In a statement to Parliament, Cabinet Secretary Keith Brown confirmed the board of HIE would not be abolished, after a concerted campaign led by Liberal Democrats and others in the region.
Less encouragingly, Mr Brown also said the government will “build” on the much criticised Crerar Report and forge ahead with creating a new, overarching Strategic Board for enterprise and skills.
The Cabinet Secretary added that agencies, such as Highlands and Islands Enterprise, would now be required to “deliver the Strategic Board’s purpose and achieve our [Scottish Government’s] vision.”
The statement follows a six month campaign and two parliamentary defeats on the government’s enterprise and skills plans.
Orkney MSP Liam McArthur, who has been campaigning to keep HIE local, said:
“The Cabinet Secretary has finally been forced to abandon his ill-judged plans to abolish the board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise. This centralising agenda never had any support amongst businesses and communities in the Highlands & Islands and flew in the face of the specific needs of our region.
“Concerns remain, however, that HIE and its board will be expected to align to the ‘vision’ and ‘purpose’ of a new overarching board and government ministers.
“We will have to wait and see, therefore, whether this is indeed the u-turn the Scottish Government would like us to believe. Ultimately, the test will be in whether or not the economic and social needs of businesses and communities in the Highlands & Islands remain the priority and focus of HIE. If not, this issue will have to come back to parliament again".