Highland Council is the latest to jump to the defence of apparently under threat Highlands and Island Enterprise.

Leader, Cllr Margaret Davidson, is seeking clarification from Depute First Minister John Swinney about reports claiming that the Board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise is to be scrapped and replaced with a centralised committee.

Councillor Davidson said: “If it is correct - it is totally unacceptable that the Scottish Government is to centralise the decision-making powers of Highlands and Islands Enterprise.  The centralisation of economic development in Scotland runs contrary to the process in England, where powers and budgets are being devolved.

“In our response to the Scottish Government on the Enterprise and Skills Review, Highland Council stressed the need to retain a regional economic development focus and we made it clear how proposals to create a Scottish wide strategic board could adversely impact on the Highlands, in particular.”

She added: “Fifty years of achievements by HIE could be wiped out with a centralised board which would simply transform HIE into an outpost of the development agency empire.

“The Highlands and Islands are unique in Scotland with their special geography and locations. We are on the brink of Brexit and there is enough uncertainty about the future without adding to it. Like its organisational logo - HIE needs the continued freedom and flexibility to spread its wings and be allowed to make its own development decision-making and not have its creativity clipped by centralisation.”