The wheels came off Scottish government’s controversial plans to scrap the Highlands and Islands Enterprise board following a heavy Holyrood defeat.
Members of all opposition parties united in demanding the SNP administration reconsider its proposals to establish a new management body to oversee all of the country’s enterprise and skills agencies.
Concerns had been voiced that abolishing the board could have led to a loss of expertise, as well as valuable funding to help support business and opposition.
It comes after news last week that the Scottish government was unable to provide a list of organisations which backed scrapping the enterprise agency.
Until this week SNP politicians consistently denied claims its attempts to bring changes to HIE were just another example of centralisation, despite a recent attempt by Highland nationalist MP Ian Blackford to broker a compromise deal.
Isles MSP Tavish Scott welcomed today’s development in parliament.
“The government lost the support of parliament tonight because it can’t command the support of anyone else in parliament other than their own side.
“All the opposition parties voted to retain the Highlands and Islands Enterprise board, principally because the government failed to make the case for abolition. They could not produce one shred of evidence of any organisation or individual who agreed with their proposal.”
He said the Scottish government had not only lost the vote, but united all opposition parties in speaking out against the proposals.
Shetland Islands Council stood with other authorities covering rural areas, such as Orkney, in its opposition to the Scottish government plans.
Its political leader Gary Robinson tonight welcomed news the plans had been defeated.
“I’m really pleased about this because I’ve said for a long time we need to retain Highlands and Islands Enterprise as a separate entity.
“Highlands and Islands Enterprise and its predecessor the Highlands and Islands Development Board celebrated its 50th anniversary two years ago. We had a presentation at the Convention of the Highlands and Islands at that time, and I made clear to John Swinney and Fergus Ewing that as far as I was concerned there was still work for Highlands and Islands Enterprise to do.
“There are still challenges in the Highlands and Islands and it remains my view HIE is the agency that’s best placed to do that – and it’s best placed to do that as a separate entity with its own board-making decisions for the Highlands and Islands.”