Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has said that next week’s Scottish Government budget, due to be announced on 28th January, must include special measures to revive the economy of his region
The Scottish Conservative MSP spoke after Charlotte Wright, the chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), revealed that the unemployment rate in Argyll and Bute had doubled to 6.5% in a year, while that of Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross had trebled.
Ms Wright revealed the findings during a meeting of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee of the Scottish Parliament earlier this week when she also quoted analysis conducted by HIE that estimated the Highland economy had declined by between £1.5 billion and £2.6bn.
Mr Cameron said: “There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic is having a disproportionately severe impact on our area with a massive contraction of the hospitality sector.
“This is feeding into the jobless figures and the reduction of economic activity, particularly in the west of the region which has been very badly affected.
“This was always going to be very challenging for us but, I’m afraid to say, we have been left even more vulnerable by the failure of the SNP Government, during its 14 years in office, to upgrade our essential infrastructure, whether it’s our trunk roads such as the A82 and A83, replace ferries on time, or improve broadband coverage. Even HIE’s budget has been slashed.
“The SNP need to make amends for their record of under-performance and provide bespoke support for our region which must include delivering permanent improvements to our infrastructure.
“They have plenty of resources provided by the UK Government, much of it still unspent.
“To date they have been big on promises but very small on delivery. That needs to change.”