Cabinet Secretary responds to Kintyre councillor

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Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism has said that South Kintyre’s councillors were not invited to a meeting about the area’s economic future as it ‘would have pushed numbers too high’.

Fergus Ewing MSP responded to a letter from Councillor Donald Kelly asking why he and his fellow local elected members were excluded from a follow-up meeting in March of the working group established at last year’s emergency economic summit.

Despite being told at the 2019 meeting that local councillors would be involved in subsequent economic summits, they were not even told last month’s meeting was taking place.

Mr Ewing told Councillor Kelly: ‘Local elected members were not invited as I felt the focus of the meeting should be on local businesses, their role in identifying actions that can help to create new employment opportunities and how they can work with Argyll and Bute Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to protect and enhance the local economy.

‘To ensure that focus, numbers of attendees had to be kept relatively low and the local constituency MSP, the constituency MP, the seven regional MSPs and three councillors from South Kintyre, plus three from Kintyre and the Islands would have pushed numbers too high to retain that focus and reduce the opportunity for businesses to contribute to the discussion, as would inviting representatives from over a dozen hotels and guesthouses in the area. Therefore, only three local hoteliers were invited to keep numbers manageable.’

Mr Ewing added that the presence of Councillor Aileen Morton, leader of Argyll and Bute Council, as well as a council official, ensured representation by an elected member.

Councillor Kelly told the Courier: ‘After speaking to a number of stakeholders who attended this meeting I am of the opinion that there is a distinct lack of urgency from all the agencies that are currently meant to be supporting our community.

‘There is a need to set up a motivated group in similar terms to that of the former Kintyre Initiative Working Group, a group which could lobby work and represent the business community of Kintyre and call the government, the council and HIE to account.’

Mr Ewing added that he intends to chair one further meeting of the working group in the autumn, adding: ‘In the meantime, I expect HIE to continue to lead intensive liaison with all local business to identify where new jobs might be created as, principally, it is the local businesses who are in a position to respond in the short term.’