Highland Council Leader and senior officers attend Economic Development meeting in Lochaber

The Highland Council Leader, Chief Executive and senior officers attended an Economic Development meeting in Lochaber today (Tuesday 9 February), together with Minister for Business Energy and tourism, Fergus Ewing MSP, local councillors and representatives of the local business community and HIE. 

Recent announcements from a couple of important employers in Lochaber about potential redundancies in the area, has resulted in the Scottish Government convening a meeting to discuss economic development issues in the area.

Director of Development and Infrastructure, Stuart Black said: "The recent announcement of the strategic review of the Rio Tinto smelter whose importance as a major employer in the Lochaber economy is seven times as significant as the Tata Steel works to Lanarkshire. The impact of around 150 potential redundancies and the knock on effect on local contractors and suppliers within the local economy would be huge.

“Highland Council is keen to hear local concerns regarding employment and to see what it can do to further support the Lochaber economy.”

The Council is active in a wide range of economic development activities areas across Lochaber.  Many of our Highland wide activities also impact upon the area, such as lobbying for increased infrastructure investment, as well as for digital connectivity. 

Mr Black added: “We provide direct support and funding to Lochaber in a wide range of ways. Over the last five years the Council’s Capital Programme has committed £40million to projects in Lochaber.  A wide variety of projects have benefited from this investment, including school construction/refurbishment, housing developments (in partnership with local housing associations), as well as in leisure facilities and the regeneration of public spaces and older buildings in the area.

“The delivery of the Business Gateway Service is directly supportive of the Council’s commitment to the Highland economy, and specifically helps prioritise and support the creation of jobs in Highland with a local office and a dedicated Business Adviser based in Fort William. The Local Business Adviser is able to assist businesses in the area with advice and information on the Council’s loan assistance programmes, including our Opportunity Fund, Community Enterprise Loan Fund and The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme.   

“Our Graduate Placement Programme is also designed to support businesses with growth plans with part-funded placements through the Council.

“We are also actively engaged in working with destination marketing groups across the Highlands including in Lochaber.  We currently support the Outdoors Capital of Europe/Lochaber Chamber of Commerce Destination Marketing Group with a financial contribution of £10,000. We work with Cruise Scotland to encourage more cruise calls to Highland Ports and with wide range of partners, including the Nevis Partnership to develop local tourism in the area.”

Leader of the Council, Cllr Margaret Davidson said: “Today's meeting was very positive, with good engagement across partners and the community.

"Lochaber is reliant on key employers and extremely vulnerable to large scale job losses. This is a similar picture across much of the rest of Highland region.

“As a local authority and a large employer, we ourselves are radically reducing our staffing and as a result our services to cope with dramatic cuts to our budget and this cannot fail to have an impact on local economies.”

“I must stress however that Highland Council’s continued commitment to the support and growth of Lochaber is very clear. Over £40 million of funding has been invested in regeneration of the Fort William area, in schools, housing and buildings.

“Our programme is dedicated to digital connectivity and making the whole of the Highlands a vibrant area where businesses can thrive and grow and retain our young people with job opportunities. We will do all we can do to make this a reality, working with our partners, both in Lochaber and across the Highlands.”

9 Feb 2016
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