LABOUR POLITICIANS HAVE been reacting to the confirmation expected today that Highlands and Islands Enterprise is to be disbanded.
Speculation has been rife for months that HIE would be brought under the control of a single, Scotland-wide board was confirmed by deputy first minister John Swinney.
The announcement comes just weeks after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised the work carried out by HIE, saying in response to a challenge from Greens MSP John Finnie: “I think Highlands and Islands Enterprise does a fantastic job, and has done a fantastic job over the last 50 years.
“I can give the assurance to the member that we will make sure it is in a position to carry on with those functions and provide the excellent services it does to the Highlands of Scotland.”
Fears have grown over the future of HIE, which provides support and services to businesses in Moray, the Highlands, Western Isles, Northern Isles and Argyll, since the Scottish Government announced and “end to end review” of the roles, responsibilities and natures of Scottish Enterprise, HIE, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council.
Last night Labour MSP Rhoda Grant, the spokesperson for her party on rural economy and connectivity, said: “I am outraged at this blatant centralisation – it beggars belief that the SNP Government will have us debating empowering Island Communities today (Thursday) while removing their power and influence over HIE.
“The loss of this board takes us back to early 1960 when Willie Ross said that no part of Scotland has been given a shabbier deal by history. Sadly the SNP Government appears to be rewriting history and offering an even shabbier deal.”
Moray Labour party spokesman Sean Morton said that decisions on Moray would no longer be taken in Moray: “This is the end of Moray having any real clout when it comes to economic strategy across the North. Right now we are able to influence HIE to get the best deal for Moray.
“Now that the SNP have decided that decisions about Moray are best made in Edinburgh I worry that our goals to make Moray more prosperous and to bring good paying jobs to the area will suffer.
“Decisions about Moray should be made in Moray. I hope that Richard Lochhead will join myself, Labour MSPs and SNP councillors in Highland Council in opposing this move.
“I hope he encourages Moray SNP councillors to oppose it too. This government can’t keep getting away with grabbing power at the expense of our community.”