A Scottish Government U-turn on its plans to scrap the board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has been welcomed by both political parties represented in the Western Isles.

Islands MSP Alasdair Allan, who had raised a 'number of concerns' about the issue, was pleased with the announcement that HIE is to retain its own board, made yesterday (Thursday, March 30th) by Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown.

“I, and my Highlands and Islands SNP colleagues, have met with Keith Brown several times on this subject and raised a number of concerns about this issue,” said Dr Allan.

“I am pleased to see the Cabinet Secretary has taken onboard those concerns and responded so positively.

“There was never any doubt about HIE's future as an organisation, or that it would continue to be locally-based, managed and directed.

“However, I did appreciate the worries people had about the board, and I hope that the commitment given today will allay those concerns.”

He added: “HIE performs incredibly valuable work in the Western Isles in helping to create and sustain jobs, and these new arrangements should protect and enhance the unique service they provide to us.”

Rhoda Grant MSP, Scottish Labour Highlands and Islands, also commented on the Scottish Government's change of mind, saying: “This is a humiliating U-turn by Keith Brown, and caps off a bad week for him after he had to apologise for the secret deal with a Chinese film and the announcement of a further delay to the opening of the Queensferry Crossing.

“It is welcome that the Nationalist 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,” she continued.

“Decisions about the Highlands and Islands economy are best taken locally, rather than by ministers sitting behind a desk in Edinburgh. We will watch very carefully to ensure that the Strategic Board does not encroach on the responsibilities of the Highlands and Islands board.”