The Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Perth has today unanimously passed a motion urging the Scottish Government to end plans to centralise Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
The emergency debate followed the publication last week of Prof Lorne Crerar’s report which recommended keeping the HIE board but turning it into a “Delivery Board”. The report, rejected by Parliament also proposed that the new overarching, centralised board should have “a Ministerial Chair” to give it “clear authority”.
In urging members to reaffirm the party’s commitment to local decision making in the north of Scotland, Highland councillor Jean Davis slammed SNP plans as “a bridge too far”.
The motion claimed the SNP Government’s attempts to abolish the governance board of HIE would lead to a “loss of local knowledge, risking economic development and fundamentally undermines HIE’s unique remit to strengthen communities.”
The Scottish Parliament has twice now rejected plans to create an “overarching” centralised board, but SNP Ministers have failed to confirm if they will listen to the will of parliament.
Following the debate, Highland councillor Jean Davis said:
“HIE is too closely involved in the local democratic processes to be directed from outside the Highlands and Islands region. This is a representative democracy and Parliament has voted these proposals down twice. The SNP government needs to listen.”
Former MSP and councillor Jamie Stone, who summated the debate added:
“SNP plans to strip the HIE board of its governance powers is causing real worry among communities and business leaders right across the north of Scotland.
“Despite the SNP spin, people know full well that this mess falls at the feet of an SNP Government backed to the hilt by SNP MSPs and councillors.
“Be in no doubt, it is one of the top issues I hear about on the campaign trail. It could well be a defining issue of the local elections.”