A leading Highland councillor has defended the local authority’s trips abroad – saying he has been “overwhelmed” by the response from overseas hosts.
The Press and Journal revealed this week how the council had sent employees on 50 foreign visits in the last two years.
The figures provoked an angry response, emerging as tens of millions of pounds is being axed from frontline services for another year.
But the local authority’s education, children and adult and services committee chairman Drew Millar defended the bill last night, claiming many of the trips hugely valuable to the council and region.
He revealed that two recent visits with senior officers, over several days, to Stockholm in Sweden had been paid entirely by the hosts as they were seeking to learn from the council’s “Getting it Right for Every Child” model.
“Every single thing was paid for by the Swedish authorities and I didn’t claim any expenses,” he said.
“We went back there just last month, (education director) Bill Alexander and myself and this time we took the head teacher from Inshes Primary School and the lead practitioner from the family team, and again they paid for everything.
“The Swedish people are sending another party over some time in the spring next year, and will probably be visiting our schools.
“Highland is very, very highly thought of and the work we’re doing with the integrated family teams. We got standing ovations every time we spoke.
“I was overwhelmed almost by the level of interest and the enthusiasm our Swedish counterparts had for the integrated family teams at Highland Council.”
Mr Millar also defended controversial trips taken by the Portree harbour master to Miami and Hamburg for cruise shipping conferences last year.
The Skye councillor said: “He was representing the whole of the Highlands, all the ports, including Invergordon. I think it is probably money well spent if we get all these cruises to the Highlands.
“I know Miami sounds a bit exotic, but somebody has to go and represent the Highlands.”