Scott: HIE cannot be centralised through the back door

Shetland MSP and Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott today called on the SNP Government to come clean over their proposals to scrap the Board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) after a government spokesperson confirmed this was being considered as part of the Skills Review.

SNP ministers announced last month their intention to establish a single national board to direct the work of the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. However, reports today reveal it has since emerged this would involve each of their boards being abolished.

Commenting, Mr Scott said:

“These proposals show that the SNP Governments is hell bent on centralisation, centralisation, centralisation. The First Minister has previously said to the Scottish Parliament that HIE was safe and wouldn’t be scrapped. But now we learn that HIE is set to be usurped and hollowed out.

“She should come clean, end the uncertainty and tell us what is planned.

“The SNP will not get away with absorbing HIE into Scottish Enterprise by the back door. I will continue to make the case against a super-quango takeover that would end economic decision-making in the Highlands and Islands.”

Responding to concerns that academic freedom would also be threatened by centralisation of the SFC, Mr Scott added:

“Scottish Liberal Democrats are instinctively wary of any reforms which could give ministers greater control over what are, and must remain, independent sectors. It is inconceivable that a new super quango taking control of the distribution of university and college funds. Ministerial direction means ever more power concentrated in the centre.

“What’s more, with little information on what this will mean and no timetable for the change, the entire process leaves universities and colleges guessing.”

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