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Scottish Government admits it can’t name a single body that supports HIE changes

The P&J has campaigned to keep HIE local
The P&J has campaigned to keep HIE local

The Scottish Government has admitted it cannot provide a list of organisations that support the controversial scrapping of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) board.

In a response to a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, officials revealed the administration has not “collated” the names of any groups that support the move.

Ministers have sparked outrage by confirming they intend to scrap the HIE board and replace it with a national body.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said the revelation that the Scottish Government could not provide a list of bodies that support the changes shows that there is “not a shred of support for their ill-judged plans”.

He has reiterated calls for a vote in parliament on the proposals, with the second stage of the Enterprise and Skills review due to be completed later this year.

A spokesman for the government insisted there was widespread support for the changes.

But Mr Scott said: “Nationalist ministers cannot provide a shred of support for their ill-judged plans. No-one made the case for abolishing HIE’s board and no-one supports the government plan.

“It is astonishing that they remain so single minded in their bid to abolish the strategic decision making of Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

“This centralisation is driven by SNP ministers and no one else. SNP ministers must get real.

“There must now be a full vote at parliament on their ill-judged plans. A vote they will lose.”

Mr Scott’s come after he grilled Economy Secretary Keith Brown during a heated Holyrood Committee for detail on which organisations support the proposals.

In their response to the Freedom of Information request, an official said “(the Scottish Government) have not collated such a list” and suggeted the administration must “look to consider further how the concerns raised in the call for evidence might be remedied”.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “These suggestions are wrong.

“HIE will continue to be locally-based, managed and directed providing dedicated support to the local economy. The new arrangements will protect the unique service that HIE delivers for our Highland and Island economies and will enhance the support that is available to businesses, employers and employees across the region.

“We received over 300 responses to our consultation, with a range of organisations showing support for a single overarching board – including Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Colleges Scotland and the University of Strathclyde.

“Many others, including the Federation of Small Business, Universities Scotland and HIE suggested that the current system is overly complex and there is a need for much better co-ordination and improved strategic alignment.”

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