Kate Forbes MSP has backed proposals in a new report issued today (23 February) reviewing the future governance of Scotland’s enterprise and skills agencies.
The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch agrees with Professor Lorne Crerar’s recommendation that the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) should have its own independent board.
Following the publishing of the Scottish Government’s Phase One review in October, there has been constructive debate on the issue.
Kate Forbes MSP said: “From the outset, I must stress that after 60 years of any organisation it is healthy for an extensive review to take place and ensure it is meeting the future needs of Scotland as a lot has changed during this period. The status quo is not always helpful.
“A review of Scotland’s enterprise bodies is not something that can happen overnight, and I am particularly grateful for the input I have received from constituents and businesses on this important matter.
“During the review, I have consistently stated that my primary objective is to strengthen HIE with resources and authority so it can better serve all of the communities and businesses of the Highlands and Islands.
“The enterprise and skills review is a process which has not been concluded yet, but I welcome this Governance review which states that there should be an independent board for HIE.
“According to the review, this independent board would act as an intermediary between the competing interests of the region, it should engage intensively with stakeholders to deliver on the key priorities of the region and should make independent decisions.
“I fully agree that the Strategic Board should not interfere with the day-to-day running of the organisation and that HIE should be well represented on the Strategic Board.
“Professor Lorne Crerar’s paper recognises that the Scottish Government has made it clear that the separate legal status of HIE will not change.
“In fact, the review suggests that HIE’s responsibilities should actually increase and should include approving its operating plan, developing strong relationships with Highlands and Islands communities, and approving all projects and investments.”
The Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP added: “The Governance review identifies that there needs to be an adequately resourced secretariat – and I still firmly believe that the secretariat and the Strategic Board headquarters should be based in the Highlands.
“I also remain convinced that the Strategic Board should meet in different locations to ensure accessibility to all areas of Scotland.
“I agree that we need better co-operation across enterprise and skills bodies to open up new opportunities for the Highlands and Islands.
“However, that should never be at the expense of HIE’s autonomy, social remit or flexibility to meet local requirements.”