Media Release: HIE to focus on four priorities for economic and community growth

HIGHLANDS and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has announced the four priorities it will pursue over the coming years to support Scotland’s economic recovery and deliver sustainable growth across the region.

The priorities, which are mutually dependent, form the core of HIE’s new Operating Plan 2011-14, which takes effect from April. HIE will:

* support businesses and social enterprises to shape and realise their growth aspirations;

* develop key sectors, particularly distinctive regional opportunities;

* create the conditions for a competitive and low carbon region; and

* strengthen communities and fragile areas,

The new plan is the organisation’s first since Alex Paterson became chief executive last August.

It sets out HIE’s vision for a successful Highlands and Islands in which increasing numbers of people choose to live, work study and invest, and details actions the development agency will take to help deliver sustainable economic and community growth in all parts of the Highlands and Islands.

“The opportunities and prospects for the Highlands and Islands over this decade are exciting and significant,” said Mr Paterson.

“In particular, I want the Highlands and Islands to fulfil its potential as an internationally-significant hub for renewable energy, and to use superfast broadband to become one of the most digitally-connected regions in Europe.

“Developments in renewables and in broadband are important for all parts of Scotland, but they will have a vital role in our most rural and fragile communities in particular.

“HIE has a unique remit which integrates both economic and community development, and one of the features of our plan is placing our role in strengthening communities and fragile areas absolutely centre stage.

“Through account managers based in our area teams across the region, we will work closely with hundreds of local businesses, social enterprises and communities to help them define and deliver their own plans for sustainable growth.

“Going forward we are giving increased prominence to helping client businesses explore new, particularly export markets, both through our own initiatives and in partnership with Scottish Development International and others.

“At the same time, many of our major projects are taking shape in areas which face significant challenges, including Argyll, Moray, Caithness, and the Outer Hebrides.

“It’s critical that we sustain HIE’s historic commitment to support all parts of the Highlands and Islands, and this Operating Plan sets out the framework to help us achieve this.”

HIE’s leadership team has been reshaped to put the new Operating Plan into action.

Carroll Buxton, who was regional director (East), becomes director of Regional Development.

Forbes Duthie retains his previous post as director of Finance and Corporate Services.

The director of Strengthening Communities is also unchanged, with John Watt fulfilling that role.

Charlotte Wright, previously regional director (Highland), has been appointed director of Business and Sector Growth.

A new post of director of Energy and Low Carbon has also been created, underlining the significance of renewable energy to the region’s future development. Calum Davidson, previously HIE’s head of Key Sectors, has been appointed to this post.

Front line service delivery remains a prime focus under the new structure. All eight of the agency’s locally-based area teams remain in place, underlining HIE’s commitment to deliver growth in every part of the Highlands and Islands.

HIE’s total budget for 2011-12 is £75,297,000, a reduction of around £7.7m compared with 2010-11.

With government finances certain to remain under pressure for the foreseeable future, HIE is setting out to target alternative sources of funding to supplement its own investments.

At the same time, the agency will continue its drive to keep operating costs and back office employment to a minimum. Twelve members of staff who applied for voluntary severance will have left HIE by the end of March.

Chair of HIE, William Roe CBE, says the Operating Plan and organisational changes will enable HIE to plan for the next decade while contributing fully to the more urgent timescale of Scotland’s economic recovery.

“HIE is ambitious for all parts of the Highlands and Islands, and ambitious for Scotland as a whole,” said Mr Roe.

“We’re committed to play our part in delivering national economic recovery, alongside our partners in the private, public and third sectors, and this Operating Plan will help us do that.

“The actions HIE and our partners will take over the coming years aim to ensure that the Highlands and Islands is home to some of Scotland’s most exciting growth businesses, particularly in key sectors, has international ambitions, and is a prime asset for attracting inward investment to the country.”

The Operating Plan is available on the HIE website at:


[A photograph of Cabinet Secretary John Swinney with HIE’s new Operating Plan is available to download free of charge from]

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) delivers the Scottish Government’s economic strategy by supporting the sustainable growth of ambitious businesses and communities across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

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HIE’s activities contribute to a comprehensive range of measures introduced across the public sector as part of the Scottish Government’s Economic Recovery Plan. For more information, visit:

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Contact: Chris Roberts
Phone: 01463 244236