Moray SNP News
SNP Council Leader for Moray Graham Leadbitter has welcomed Government Ministers, Highlands and Islands Council Leaders and senior representatives of public bodies to a meeting of the Convention of the Highlands and Islands.
The meeting took place in Moray College UHI’s Alexander Graham Bell Centre in the heart of Elgin with an agenda that covered critical issues facing all of the regions in the Highlands & Islands including High Speed Broadband, Talent Attraction, Skills Development, Projects of National Significance and regional funding streams Post-Brexit.
Welcoming CoHI delegates the Council Leader Graham Leadbitter highlighted the challenges and opportunities facing Moray:
“Like other councils represented here and, indeed other public sector organisations, we have some significant budget challenges, we are having to choose what to prioritise and protect, where to invest and where to cut back.
“For Moray we have a fairly unique challenge. Major defence investment at RAF Lossiemouth, with the impending arrival of 9 P8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft, will see a very significant increase in both military and civilian personnel, along with their spouses, partners and dependents.
“It will be the equivalent of a small town arriving in Moray in a very short space of time and, rightly, we have to ensure that all of our new residents have the same high quality of services as those already here.
“That unique and rapid increase in population is very welcome but it does present challenges for us in the delivery of services.
“As a major part of the expansion of RAF Lossiemouth, Boeing will be setting up a major base of operations and, as we speak a strategic facility capable of housing 3 large Poseidon aircraft at any given time is being built - a facility that will be larger than Murrayfield.
“The construction firm delivering that project is Robertsons, who are headquartered right here in Elgin.
“Elsewhere in Moray we have seen the phenomenal investment by Macallan in a new distillery and visitor experience, which is already wowing thousands of people from all over the world. Pretty much every distiller in Moray is investing millions in increasing production and improving their visitor offer, which is fantastic to see.
“Moray is home to literally dozens of iconic whisky and food and drink brands that you will see in nearly every airport in the world, something that we are very proud of.
“In the midst of all of this we have the elephant in the room of Brexit - which features heavily on today’s agenda.
“How will that impact on our workforce, a significant number of whom have travelled here from Europe and who are vital to the success of our food and drink sector. How will Brexit impact on our traditional agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries? What will the impact be on the substantial funds that Moray and the rest of the Highlands and Islands have utilised very effectively over the years?
“Separately we are currently in the process of working up a Growth Deal with the support of Scottish Government and UK Government partners and that Growth Deal aims to put in place the skills and infrastructure that will support the growth of all of the industries I have mentioned and many more besides.
“We have immediate challenges, particularly balancing a difficult budget, but we also have huge opportunity.
“I am delighted that the Cabinet Secretary will be opening our replacement Elgin High School - a 21st century school for the delivery of the 21st Curriculum for Excellence.
“Like the other councils represented here we are also working hard on our Early Years rollout, which is being held up as an exemplar.
“Challenge brings Opportunity and Opportunity brings Challenge.”
Following the convention meeting Cllr Leadbitter said:
“The discussions today were extremely productive, we all have tasks to do as a result of today’s meeting. It is by working together across Council boundaries, across organisational boundaries and between local and national government that we can effectively tackle the challenges of facing Moray and the wider Highlands and Islands.
“Challenges such as population change, connectivity in our most remote and rural areas, ensuring that we get similar funding from the UK Government in the Highlands post-brexit as we have had previously. Funds that all of the Highlands and Islands councils and public bodies have been very effective at using.
“We also covered the vital issue of skills development and talent attraction, which are vital to the sustainable future of our communities.”