Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Row continues over future of HIE board

Tavish Scott
Tavish Scott

Northern Isles Liberal Democrats have branded SNP efforts to settle the bitter row over the scrapping of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise board as a “panicked attempt to save face”.

But nationalists Ian Blackford and Kate Forbes immediately hit back at the “negativity” of their critics.

Scottish ministers provoked fury late last year by confirming plans to axe HIE’s dedicated board and replace it with a panel overseeing several bodies.

Opponents have claimed the move will undermine 50 years of progress in the region.

In an attempt to defuse the situation, Mr Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, has proposed the controversial new board goes ahead, but that HIE retains its own management or advisory board as well.

Ms Forbes has submitted forward a different plan – challenging her own government to base the replacement board in the region.

But MSPs Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott, who have campaigned against the idea, dismissed the “conflicting” proposals.

They accused the SNP of being in a “blind spin” over the future of HIE, calling the Scottish Government’s policy “a centralisation too far”.

The pair told the Press and Journal: “Ministers want to abolish the board. Nationalist backbenchers agree. Now an 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.

“Removing strategic decision-making over economic development from the Highlands and Islands will damage the region.

“Rather than come up with more convoluted ways to justify a policy no-one supports, ministers should now just abandon their plans.”

Mr Blackford responded that HIE would be strengthened by the opportunities to work on a collaborative basis with the other enterprise agencies in the new over-arching strategic board.

He added: “We are ambitious for the Highlands and Islands, it is a pity that the Liberal Democrats, a party that once had great strength in our region, can only deliver negativity.”

Ms Forbes, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP, also condemned the Lib Dems’ “relentlessly negative rhetoric”.

She said: “We are in the midst of a review of the enterprise agencies – and that means that all ideas and suggestions are welcome.”

The P&J’s Keep HIE Local campaign has been backed by all opposition parties, Highland Council, trade unions, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) and former chairmen and chief executives of the agency.

The Scottish Government has confirmed the issue will be considered during the second phase of the Enterprise and Skills Review.

Already a subscriber? Sign in