Highland Greens have called on the Scottish Government to revise Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s priorities to make sustainable growth its overarching consideration.
Green spokesperson Dr Eleanor Scott said: “It is clear from the letter HIE sent to Highlands and Islands Local Food Network (1) announcing its withdrawal of funding to that organisation, that the reason for that withdrawal is that the Government had instructed it to focus on areas of high growth potential. This policy however predates the credit crunch and now needs to be revisited.
“Surely one of the things we can learn from the collapse of the financial sector is that ‘high growth’ often means ‘unsustainable growth’, and that ‘boom’ is followed by ‘bust’.”
Greens want HIE’s focus to shift to the promotion of sustainable development, particularly in vulnerable areas of the North.
Scott added: “If HIE’s focus were to be about sustainability, then they would be supporting small local businesses and the organisations that support them such as Highlands and Islands Local Food Network, which has grown up naturally in response to the needs of local food producers — and those producers are themselves helping to meet government targets in use of local fresh food, food security and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Small local producers are the lifeblood of local economies in small communities. The global recession has brought home to us the need to build up strength and resilience in our local economies. If HIE is to meet the real needs of the Highlands and Islands it needs to focus now on supporting the sort of enterprise which is sustainable and which sustains our communities.”
In response to your request for a letter outlining HIE’s position towards HILFN, I am happy to put on record our view that HILFN have created a strong network of local food producers and have achieved a great deal in recent years in moving forward the supply of local food in the Highlands & islands.
Highlands & Islands Enterprise is tasked with accelerating growth of the economy and under the new Government Economic Strategy is focussing our limited support on those businesses with greatest potential for growth. We are also tasked with encouraging those businesses who are operating out with local markets. These factors combined result in HIE being unable to continue to fund HILFN.
HIE recognises that local food supply is strong component in national food policy and as such we would be keen to see a those involved in local food industry flourishing.