As part of its inquiry into Scotland’s enterprise network - including Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) - the Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee (EET) is travelling to Skye next month.
The Committee will hold a formal meeting at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the National Centre for the Gaelic language and culture, in Sleat from 3-6pm on Monday 1 November. The following morning it will meet representatives of the Sleat Community Trust and visit Ardvasar filling station and Post Office, which are run by the Trust. Finally, the Committee will visit Rag, Tag ‘n’ Textile in Balmacara - a social enterprise which works with people who are recovering from mental health problems.
Iain Smith MSP, Convener of the Committee, said:
“We are travelling to Skye as part of our inquiry to gain first-hand experience of what type of support local businesses and organisations are receiving from the country’s enterprise network, including HIE.
“We have heard anecdotal evidence that the service provided by the Scotland’s enterprise network is inconsistent. Some of the written evidence submitted to the Committee indicates that not all organisations feel well-served. Comhairlie Nan Eilean Siar thinks the best way to address this issue is to integrate HIE’s services into those provided by the local authority – others disagree with this proposal. Our visit will allow us to expand on the themes the Committee is already exploring.
“We particularly want to see how HIE serves its more fragile, remote and rural communities as it has been suggested to us that it is this role that requires HIE to be separate from Scottish Enterprise.”
The Committee decided the time was right to launch this inquiry as it is now more than three years since the Scottish Government announced wide-reaching reforms to the country’s enterprise network. The reforms abolished Local Enterprise Companies and Local Enterprise Forums, transferred the Business Gateway service to local authorities and established Skills Development Scotland.
The report, which will be published next year following the Committee’s review of the purpose of the enterprise network, will help form a blueprint for promoting economic growth for the administration that emerges from the Holyrood elections in May 2011.
Iain Smith MSP added: “In recent years, the enterprise network budget has already been cut and further reductions may well be likely as the Scottish Government publishes its draft budget following the UK Government’s spending review. In this context, it’s vital to examine whether it is reasonable to ask the likes of Scottish Enterprise, HIE and Scottish Development International to do the same job as before with smaller budgets and fewer employees.”
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