Impact of Brexit discussed by Highland Councillors
7th January 2021
The Highland Council met today (7 January 2021) and took the opportunity to discuss Brexit. A number of issues arising from the UK's exit from the EU were discussed and the complexity of the situation was recognised particularly since there are a number of other concurrent issues such as COVID.
Councillors expressed concerns around the overall impact on Highland businesses having to deal with the new import and export requirements as well as the additional requirements around Export Health Certificates.
The discussions followed members receiving a detailed briefing on key Brexit issues.
Cllr Jimmy Gray, Chair of the Brexit Working Group said: "Now the transition period is over there is an impact on freight and supply chains and if you add the risks of Covid-19 and winter weather into the equation you can easily see the detrimental impacts this could have with local business and our wider communities. Our priority remains to make sure our business community gets all the backing it needs."
There was cross party support for the Council to seek clarification from the Westminster Government what support can expected to assist in mitigating extra costs arising through Brexit.
Councillor Gray also took the opportunity to signpost that guidance to assist businesses with issues arising from EU Exit are available.
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Members of The Highland Council's Caithness Committee have approved additional funding for a project to bring new life to the site of a former derelict building on Wick High Street. In September last year the Scottish Government announced extra funding through the Town Centre Fund as part of its national economic recovery stimulus package, particularly aimed at supporting construction activity across Scotland.
Inverness Councillors on The Highland Council's City and Area Recovery Group today discussed the importance of local businesses having an online digital presence for customer access during the pandemic and post-lockdown recovery. Good digital access via websites and social media was the common theme raised by two speakers from Business Gateway and the Highland Food and Drink Trail in presentations to Councillors.
The Highland Council has begun detailed designs works on a major £2.5m energy project, part-funded by the Scottish Government through Salix Finance. At a site on the River Ness, near Whin Park in Inverness, the council is preparing to install a 92kW ‘Archimedes Screw' hydroelectric power turbine.
The Council's ICT in Learning team have been working hard to continue to support our school communities as we deliver remote learning to all children and young people across Highland. Chair of Education committee, Cllr John Finlayson said: "I want to thank all of our staff in Education who have worked incredibly hard to ensure that our school communities are receiving support and a quality education experience.
Enrolment for all ELC providers, including local authority nurseries, partner settings and commissioned childminders, will take place online this year. Enrolment week for ELC places will take place on Monday 8 February to Friday 12 February 2021.
Following discussions at the recent Council meeting, the Council Leader has formally written to the Local Government Boundary Commission on their proposals for councillor numbers and ward boundaries in the Highland Council area. She advised the Boundary Commission that the Council rejected the Commission's proposals in their entirety and formally requested that they halt this process immediately and review the whole issue of remote and rural area boundaries and councillor numbers in consultation with the Highland Council and other local authorities who have mainland councils with inhabited islands.
The Scottish Government has launched a £1,500 grant scheme to assist each individual licensed taxi or private hire driver with their fixed costs including licence plate fees, rental fees and insurance payments for taxis not on the road. The Highland Council's Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Trish Robertson said: "The Highland Council has been asked by the Scottish Government to deliver this grant scheme on their behalf.
Applicants for the Scottish Government's Temporary Business Closure Grant can now apply even if they do not have a formal business bank account. Businesses will now be able to use a personal bank account as evidence, if the account is mainly used for their business banking.
A significant top-up to the grant support available for hospitality, retail and leisure businesses across Scotland closed by level 4 restrictions will be paid following an announcement by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes. In addition to the grants businesses receive through the Strategic Business Framework Fund, eligible businesses will also get a one off grant of.
Members at yesterday's previously adjourned and re-scheduled meeting of Highland Council voted to carry a motion introduced to make adjustments to the agenda in light of the situation in relation to COVID-19 and Brexit. The urgent motion was proposed by Highland Council Leader Cllr Margaret Davidson and supported by the Leader of the official Opposition, Cllr Raymond Bremner.