Controversial plans for entreprise '˜super quango' dropped

Controversial plans to create an enterprise super-quango in Scotland have been axed by ministers after widespread opposition from local communities and MSPs.

Keith Brown says he has listened to Parliament
Keith Brown says he has listened to Parliament

Economy Secretary Keith Brown told Parliament today he will not be pushing ahead with plans to axe the board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland and merge these into one enterprise national board.

The Scottish Government has already lost a vote in Parliament on the issue amid concerns it would centralise decision-making in Edinburgh. Mr Brown confirmed today that a new strategic board will be created nationally to "reset" the relationship between enterprise and skills agencies have with businesses.

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But it will have no legal standing - and the other enterprise boards will not be axed.

"We have listened to the views of Parliament and those with an interest in our review, and can confirm that the Highlands and Islands Enterprise board and the boards of the other three agencies will remain," Mr Brown said.

"As I have previously promised, HIE will continue to be locally-based, managed and directed, and the new arrangements will protect and enhance their unique service.

“Far from diminishing the role of the agencies, I want to strengthen their capability and encourage greater collaboration. The Strategic Board will assist the work of the four agency boards."

The original plans came after a review into the scope, structures and functions for a new board by Professor Lorne Crerar.

Today's announcement was branded a "humiliating U-turn" by Labour's Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant.

She said: "It is welcome that the Nationalists have scrapped their plan to centralise control of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The independence of the board should never have been put at risk in the first place.

"Decisions about the Highlands and Islands economy are best taken locally, rather than by ministers sitting behind a desk in Edinburgh."