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HIE Launches Its Biggest Public Consultation

18th January 2005

A HUGE public consultation exercise is being launched by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Responses to the widest exercise of its kind in the 40-year history of the economic and community development agency and its predecessor, the Highlands and Islands Development Board, will help determine HIE's future activities.

The consultation is part of a detailed review by HIE of how, in an area with challenges and opportunities highly distinct from other parts of Scotland, it can best help deliver national economic priorities and pursue its unique community development role.

A refreshed version of "A Smart, Successful Scotland," the Scottish Executive's strategic direction to the country's two enterprise networks (HIE and Scottish Enterprise) and enterprise strategy for Scotland as a whole, was launched in November 2004. Following its strategy review, HIE will, in June, launch a refreshed version of "A Smart, Successful Scotland - the Highlands and Islands Dimension", setting out the agency's priorities for coming years.

As well as formally seeking the views of its own staff, stakeholders, partner organisations, businesses and communities, HIE is inviting anyone with an interest in the area's future to have their say through its website at www.hie.co.uk Every response will be read and considered carefully.

Launching the consultation exercise, HIE chairman William Roe said: "We are doing this very thoroughly and very openly. We are keen to hear from people who are interested in the Highlands and Islands as well as people who are located here and, of course, the web makes it easy for us to consult very widely.

"I personally hope a lot of young people will help us understand what they think this organisation should be doing to help make a flourishing Highlands and Islands for the future."

Mr Roe said that the strategic review was necessary, not just to update A Smart, Successful Scotland - the Highlands and Islands Dimension (which was first published in 2002), but also to enable HIE to better respond to and influence changing conditions in the area.

The HIE chairman said key drivers for change affecting the Highlands and Islands now and in the future were:

* The region as a whole is more successful than ever before.
* Sectors relatively new to the area, such as science and technology, are becoming increasingly important.
* Broadband technology will soon reach every community in the HIE area.
* The region is still short of people, although population has been growing.

Mr Roe said: "As an agency, our budget is not going down, but the demands on it have never been as great and we can't continue in the pattern we have been going on in the past and still be successful. We need to make some choices about our investments for the future and that means having a very clear strategy.

"At the heart of this review, we are asking what does an economic and community development agency do in a region which is prospering rapidly? This is a serious refreshment of what we do and a fresh look ahead. We are trying to equip ourselves to be the kind of agency we will need to be for the next decade or so.

"Although this is a story of success, we are not a complacent organisation. There are both parts of our region and sectors within it which are not experiencing that success and there are other parts where there is a lot of turbulence. That is one of the reasons we need to continue to exist and be successful and effective."

In the future, Mr Roe, said, he believed HIE could be successful, not only through investment, but also through influence.

He added: "We see a growth in the influence we and the business community together need to exert on the economy. We see more opportunities in the future where we can exert influence on the inward investment pattern of businesses and of people and on the growth of key sectors.

"Part of that influence is outside the Highlands and Islands. One of the jobs I see myself doing as chair of HIE is trying to exert influence on those investors or agencies or political institutions in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Brussels, because I am not at all convinced that many of them really understand the success of this region and therefore its potential. Many people think the Highlands and Islands is a nice area for a great holiday, but not a contributor to UK plc. The Highlands and Islands is demonstrably now a contributor to UK plc and therefore a land of opportunity."

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