Fears over reduced influence

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A Western Isles Councillor has called for the reversal of the decision to disband the HIE board and said that a compromise suggested by a Highland MP was not the answer.

Councillor Donald Crichton, Loch a Tuath Ward, was responding to suggestions from Ian Blackford, MP for Skye and Lochaber, that an advisory board should be retained but with the strategic role belonging to the new national board.

Mr Crichton also said that there should be a re-drawing of boundaries to focus on the most peripheral areas of the Highlands and Islands.

Councillor Crichton said: “Mr Blackford’s suggestion does nothing to remove the fact that through this misguided decision economic development in the Highlands and Islands is going to be diminished.

“An advisory or local management board as Mr Blackford suggests, would be an empty gesture without having any key strategic role.

Mr Crichton continued: “There is real danger that the Government doesn’t see the Highlands and Islands as a priority any more and this decision seems to confirm that.

“Meanwhile our depopulation crisis grows as influence and people ebb away.”

He concluded: “This review should have been the opportunity to redraw HIE’s boundaries with a focus on the islands and other vulnerable areas in the Highlands and placing the more populous and prosperous Inverness under the umbrella of Scottish Enterprise.

“With a strengthened remit and a properly resourced budget the projected population decline and economic challenges could be seriously tackled.”