Lib Dem Conference backs action to reverse economic damage caused by central belt rule

This weekend, Liberal Democrats from across Scotland backed calls from North East campaigner John Waddell to set up a new economic development body for the region, following concerns for the future of the local economy under the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats candidate for Aberdeenshire West and second on their list of regional candidates voiced fears that the oil and gas downturn could lead to depopulation and a void of opportunities for young people, without urgent intervention.  
On Friday (30th October), the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference of party members, held virtually, backed a motion calling for a new economic development agency for the North East of Scotland.  John Waddell drafted and moved the motion with Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael.  
Speaking after the motion was passed, John Waddell said:  
“Growing up in a rural village on the outskirts of one of Scotland’s major cities, I know how people feel when they say that they and their communities feel left behind by the governments in Edinburgh and London. They have tough questions for us, and we must have strong answers.  
“We are privileged in the North East to have opportunity north east and elevator, and the experience expertise of the oil and gas industry. An economic development body would harness these, bring these together in a singularly focuses economic development agency.”  
He added:  
“The North East has its own unique set of challenges in the coming years. As the oil and gas downturn continues and we navigate the covid-19 pandemic, we must pursue all avenues of support and investment, working in partnership with local authorities, the Scottish and UK governments, and the local businesses and organisations in the North East.  
“It is local people, communities, businesses and organisations who know our local needs best. We need to bring them together and empower them to succeed. Failure to act now could see our strong and thriving economy decline and go the way of the former once thriving mining communities in Fife, the central belt and the North of England.”
Notes to Editors:  
  • The full motion as passed can be read here:  
Conferences notes:
The need to rebuild Scotland’s economic post Covid-19, especially in rural and island communities.
The need for strategic economic development to improve connectivity, infrastructure and long-term economic growth across Scotland.
Since the election of the SNP government in 2007, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Enterprise (SE) have centralised control, cut budgets and reduced local accountability.
Conference believes:
That communities across Scotland require support for economic and social development which allows all communities to meet their own challenges in this area.
That democratic accountability is vital for decision making that affects local communities, as those who live within the community understand best what is needed to ensure their future success.  
The people who know best what will help business to thrive are the people who run the businesses themselves.
Conference calls for:  
The replacement of Highlands and Islands Enterprise with a revitalised development body, with local democratic accountability and a remit for the delivery of economic development, infrastructure construction and community empowerment.
The creation of a new economic development agency for the North East of Scotland in this model.
The Scottish Government to support regional and community decision-making at a local level and reverse its attempts to centralise economic and community development.

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