THE FUTURE OF Highlands and Islands Enterprise remains in some doubt with the Scottish Government refusing to address questions at the Holyrood Parliament.
Regional Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has said she is “deeply concerned” over the future of the agency as speculation grows that it may be absorbed into a single, nationwide body.
Mrs Grant says she is in particular concerned for HIE staff, who deserve to know where their future will be at a time of great uncertainty.
The MSP tabled a Parliamentary Question on the issue at the end of last month, seeking clarity after an announcement that a new nationwide board to coordinate the actions of HIE and Scottish Enterprise. That sparked fears that it would be a method of centralisation “by the back door” rather than a merger.
An answer should have been posted by Monday of this week – however, none was provided that gives a clear indication of what is ahead for HIE. Mrs Grant has had a note from Economy, Jobs and Fair Work minister Keith Brown saying that he would reply “as soon as possible”.
Mrs Grant said: “This tells me one of two things; that it’s either such a half-baked plan that they don’t know what they are doing or that they are not being upfront and open and are trying to hide the enormity of what lies ahead for HIE.
“Given the outrage expressed from throughout the Highlands and Islands, it is deeply concerning that the government waits until the deadline for answer before admitting they don’t have the answer.
“Either they really do not have a clue what they are doing or they are trying to hide what they are doing – neither is clear.
“This issue however cannot simply be swept under the carpet in the hope that it will go away. It is far too important for our communities in the Highlands and Islands, and for the staff of HIE who deserve to know what the plans are going forward.
“This shows a clear lack of strategy from this government, or an unwillingness to publish that strategy. Either way it is not good enough and I will be holding both Keith Brown, and his SNP colleagues to account on this.”