Guest Editorial: Moray is keeping regional MSPs busy

RHODA GRANT MSP steps forward this month for our guest editorial….

Rhoda Grant  MSP
Rhoda Grant MSP

I AM SURE I you are as concerned as I am about the downgrading of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

I had previously asked questions to try and find out what the Scottish Governments plans were and deeply concerned to receive ‘no answer’ from the Scottish Government on the plans for Highlands and Islands Enterprise during the first part of November.

I tabled a Parliamentary Question in October asking the Scottish Government when it plans to re-advertise the post of chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), what the period of appointment will be and whether an HIE board will be constituted.

This question was tabled in the wake of the announcement that the Scottish Government is to create a new nationwide board to coordinate the actions of HIE and Scottish Enterprise, sparking fears that this could be a method of centralisation by the back door rather than a merger with Scottish Enterprise.

The question was due for answer on November 14 but the government failed by that date to give any clear indication of what lay ahead for HIE, with them telling me that the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown, would reply to me as soon as possible.

At the time I wonder why this was, it could have been because it was either such a half-baked plan that they didn’t know what they were doing or that they were not being upfront and open and were trying to hide the enormity of what lay ahead for HIE.

Given the news we got last week the later appears to be the case and they were trying to hide their true intentions. Outrage has been expressed throughout the Highlands and Islands including Moray, that they have now confirmed that they are downgrading HIE.

Out of the blue John Swinney announced that the HIE Board will be disbanded and they will be governed by a central over aching board. I am absolutely outraged at this blatant centralisation.

It beggars belief that the SNP Government had us debating empowering Island Communities (on 24.11.16) 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. I have lodged a Parliamentary Motion seeking a debate in the chamber on this issue.

Moray Teacher Shortage

Education -
Education – Teacher shortage situation is showing improvement in Moray.

I recently wrote to the Chief Executive of Moray Council to find out the latest position with regards Teacher Shortages. I received a detailed response from The Corporate Director of Education and Social Care at Moray Council, Laurence Findlay.

I am reassured that Moray Council are doing all they can to address this issue, from offering generous relocation packages, to working in partnership with a local house builder and offering six month free rental if they come to the area.

Other initiatives include a partnership with UHI in which they are now offering six Teacher Training places at Moray College. They have increased their marketing opportunities and they have developed a thorough induction programme.

In the response I received the local Authority outlined that they had identified their own concerns namely:

• The small variance in the salary of a Deputy Head Teacher in a large school and the Head Teacher of a smaller school.
• Candidates accepting a role and then pulling out as an opportunity arose in the Central belt
• The allocation of Newly Qualified Teachers
• The availability of supply cover

I am pleased to note that in June there were 40 secondary school vacancies, but now that has reduced to 14.7 FTE. This shows that all the efforts of Moray Council are starting to pay off.

However, in relation to the small variance in salaries of a Deputy Head in a large School and a Head Teacher in a smaller school, this is an issue that a review of job resizing may help with and in that vein I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Education seeking his views and comments.

Moray Young Citizens Awards (MYCA)

This month I tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament encouraging communities and youth organisations within Moray to nominate individuals for the prestigious Moray Young Citizen Awards scheme which is now open for applications. This prestigious scheme is open to young people across Moray who have demonstrated remarkable work in their communities and is organised as a joint venture between Police Scotland, Moray Council and Diageo.

This is an excellent scheme, whereby the young people of Moray who make outstanding contributions to their communities can be recognised. I understand that the scheme was set up some years ago when some within the Moray community blamed the young people for much of the anti-social behaviour ongoing at that time.

It actually transpired that only 3% of the young people from Moray were so involved and a large number of the 97% who were not engaging in this type of behaviour were carrying out good deeds and helping others.

It would be great if all within Moray could nominate as many of these responsible and motivated young people who go beyond what is expected of them and make a positive difference to their community. I also take a personal interest in this scheme because I am proud that Doug MacKenzie who now manages my office was involved in setting it up.

Tackling Oppressive behaviour In Employment (TOBIE)

Bullying - MSP testing the interest for a new approach in Moray.
Bullying – TOBIE continues to deal with difficult issues.

Since launching our sign post ‘on line’ site in Inverness and Elgin a couple of years ago, we have been inundated with calls from people across the Highlands, Islands and Moray who have been victims of bullies in the workplace.

The fact that in the first six months of launching we had nearly 7,500 ‘hit’s’ on our site tells you how big a problem this issue is.

This month I have had discussions with the Non-Executive Bills Unit (NEBU) within the Parliament to establish if we had grounds for trying to enact legislation that could stand alone and allow employers and others better deal with bullying and oppressive behaviour in the workplace.

The team at NEBU have agreed to seek further legal advice on this issue so we can see if that is possible. Rest assured I will do whatever I can to help rid our workplaces of the scourge of bullying and oppressive behaviour.

My web site is currently being reconstructed, but if any reader wishes to read about all my work in the Scottish Parliament they can look at my facebook site at or my twitter feed at @RhodaGrant.