MSP queries agency’s food park study

After hearing that a study is to be carried out on a new food and business park in Lerwick, MSP Tavish Scott wants to know what happened to a similar study done by Scalloway company AB Associates Ltd three years ago.

Last week it was revealed that Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) had commissioned Inverness-based chartered surveyors Graham & Sibbald to undertake a demand study into the viability of such a park.

Mr Scott has now written to HIE chief executive Sandy Cumming, asking why the 2006 study was not being updated, rather than carrying out a fresh one.

Noting that the announcement “caught quite a lot of people by surprise”, he has asked about the background to the process by which HIE decided to commission the study.

Mr Scott wants to know: what happened to the original report; why another consultant is now being employed; if AB Associates had an opportunity to update the report, which might have saved the public purse some badly needed resources; did HIE put the contract out to tender and, if so, when?

He said: “I welcome any development which could help Shetland’s food and drink industry to expand, allowing Shetland businesses to make the most of our local produce, adding value to it before it leaves the Isles.

“But HIE’s handling of this study is bizarre. Firstly, there is little evidence that they consulted with the local food and drinks industry before fixing the remit for the study. The result may be that they are asking the wrong questions. And they also seem to be trying to reinvent the wheel by starting from scratch with a new south consultant rather than building on the work already done by Shetland-based AB Associates.

“It’s not just that surely it would have been cheaper to update their report; AB Associates also have local knowledge which makes them much better qualified to carry out this work. Yet I understand that they were not even invited to tender for it.”


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