Inverness ready for Scottish Natural Heritage's First Fifteen

THE first Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) staff to move from Edinburgh to Inverness in a controversial relocation of the agency’s headquarters will arrive in the Highlands in a couple of weeks.

The initial 15 staff will be housed temporarily in a rented office overlooking the Beauly Firth. A second temporary office is being sought to bring staff numbers to 80 by the summer.

The Scottish Executive has ordered SNH to transfer its HQ and 250 staff from Edinburgh to Inverness by 2006 as part of a policy of dispersing civil service jobs from the central belt. While welcomed in the Highlands, the move has been fiercely opposed by Edinburgh civic leaders, some MSPs, unions and many staff.

Yesterday, John Markland, the SNH chairman, looked round the office, in a building owned by Scottish Provincial Press, where the first relocated staff will work. He said the move was an important milestone, although it was still uncertain how many would relocate. Negotiations were continuing with the Executive over conditions.

He said: "That is critical before people consider this move. We need this information quickly. At the moment we don’t have an agreed deal."