Welcome for recommendation that the Highlands and Islands has its own Economic Development Agency

01 March 2011

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Peter Peacock has welcomed a report by his fellow MSPS recommending that the region continues to have its own economic development agency.

A report published by the cross-party economic committee said that while there could be efficiencies made from replacing Highlands an Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise with a single agency, the issues facing the Highlands and Islands were substantial enough to merit a dedicated regional agency.

Mr Peacock said: "I welcome the recommendation by the committee.

"It is clearly the right decision."


Peter Peacock urges council to secure future of music swiftly

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Peter Peacock has urged the Council to secure the future of Plockton Music School swiftly otherwise it risks losing funding from the Scottish Government.

He asked Education Secretary Mike Russell written Parliamentary questions about funding for the school, which was earmarked for closure as part of Highland Council’s recent budget cuts.

The centre survived but still faces an uncertain future.

Mr Russell indicated in his replies that were the Council to withdraw its own funding then the Scottish Government‘s annual grant would also be withdrawn and this money could not be spent on other services by the council.

Mr Peacock said: "The clear implication is that if Highland Council ends the funding to the school, it will lose the grant from the Scottish Government.

"That would not only leave the council without the school, with all the benefits that arise from that for the local economy, the benefits to the reputation of the Highlands and the benefits to the individual pupils and to Scottish traditional music but it would also mean that the Council would be financially worse off ."

He added: "The answers confirm what I have been saying to the Council about the financial risks they were running when they embarked on this course of action.

"However, I welcome the positive meeting that was held earlier in the week between the Council and the school and I hope the answers to the questions will confirm to the Council that they need to resolve the matter quickly.

Parliamentary Questions

24 February 2011
Index Heading: Education and Lifelong Learning

Peter Peacock : To ask the Scottish Executive what its position is regarding a local authority no longer providing funding for a national centre of excellence in education for which its annual funding had been specifically increased.

Mr Michael Russell :

The previously ring-fenced funding for national centres of excellence was rolled-up into the local government finance settlement with effect from 1 April 2008. Although the provision for national centres of excellence is still recognised in the needs-based distribution formula there is no separately identifiable funding. If a council were to withdraw this service, this could impact on the future funding allocations for that council. The Scottish Government view is that it would not be appropriate for a council to benefit at the expense of other councils, within the distribution formula, in relation to a facility or service that it no longer provides.

Peter Peacock : To ask the Scottish Executive what understanding was reached with or through COSLA regarding increased funding for particular local authorities for national centres of excellence in education being intended for the continuation of such centres.

Mr Michael Russell :

Under the terms of the Concordat it was agreed by Scottish Ministers and the COSLA Presidential Team that, as part of the funding package for 2008-11, the Scottish Government would substantially reduce the number of separate funding streams, thereby allowing local authorities much more freedom in how they allocate their total resources. The funding for national centres of excellence in education was one of the many ring-fenced funding streams rolled up with effect from 1 April 2008. Although the funding for centres of excellence is no longer separately identifiable, the provision is still recognised in the needs based distribution formula


Labour Move to Secure Future for Plockton Traditional Music Centre

17 February 2011

Scottish Labour has moved to secure the future of the National Centre for Excellence in Traditional Music at Plockton.

The future of the centre was placed in doubt following a decision of Highland Council to include the removal of funding from 2012.

Labour's cultural affairs spokesperson, Pauline McNeill MSP has written to Highland Council leader Michael Foxley seeking an assurance that it is the Highland Council administration's intention to guarantee the future of the centre.

She has made it clear that she is asking for this assurance to enable her to consider, "whether it is necessary for me to make clear how my Party will ensure its continued financing in the absence of any
such assurance from the Council".

Pauline McNeill said,

"The National Centre for Excellence in Traditional Music is widely regarded as an outstanding success.
"Labour gave the extra funds to create this centre in 2000 and maintained special grant to the Council when in office.

"That money was then rolled into its overall grant aid on the basis that it provides this national facility.

"I know the Council are actively looking at what they should now do to respond to the clear expressions of support for the centre and have committed to seeking to secure its long term future.

"But uncertainty remains at the very time when potential new pupils are having to make the choice of whether to go to Plockton for the rest of their school career.

"That is a big choice and they need a guarantee they will be able to complete their education at Plockton.

"I would very much welcome the council giving the guarantee that is needed, then we can all move on without any further action being necessary.

"This needs to be fully resolved, and quickly."

Peter Peacock, the Highlands and Islands MSP who was schools minister at the time the centre was established, said,

"I am delighted my senior colleagues recognise the significance of this wonderful national asset at Plockton and are prepared to signal they will act to secure the centre's future if the Council doesn't feel able to.

"The future of the centre is too important to have any doubt remaining that it will continue.

"I have spoken to the Council Leader, Michael Foxley, about the issues and I believe a satisfactory solution can be found at the Council's own hand, and quickly.

"But if that proves not to be the case, other options will need to be considered.

"There are a number of options for any incoming government and I am absolutely confident the future of the centre can be secured one way or another."


Peter Peacock expresses delight over university status for the University of the Highlands and Islands

1 February 2011

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Peter Peacock has expressed his delight at the news that university status has been granted by the Privy council to the University of the Highlands and Islands.
Mr Peacock, who has supported the project for almost 30 year as Councillor, MSP and Government Minister, said:

"It is fantastic to have confirmation that the long road to full University status has been now been completed.
"This achievement is down to many committed individuals down the years, and across the political spectrum, who have turned a dream into a reality.

"It has always been clear this prize would help complete the basic infrastructure to make this region even more successful into the future.
"The task now is to market Scotland's newest and unique university to the wider world, drawing in fresh talent and huge economic benefit to our region."


Assurances won over funding for community broadband projects

26 January 2011

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Peter Peacock has won assurances from Rural Affairs Minister Richard Lochhead that community broadband projects in the region who fear they have missed out on funding may still get money.

The Highland LEADER Local Action Group (LAG) was among who bid for funding from the Rural Broadband Challenge Fund but unfortunately it was not successful.

However Mr Peacock wrote to Mr Lochhead asking him if some form of funding was still possible because there was a clear demand for the scheme.

In a letter back to Mr Peacock Mr Lochhead said: "Despite ongoing Scottish Rural Development Programme budgetary constraints there is still an opportunity to support innovative community IT projects using existing LEADER resources.

"This of course would be subject to this project fit with the local business plan and would require support from the LAG, however this may be an option worth pursuing."

Peter Peacock said: "I am glad that Mr Lochhead has indicated that the LAG still has a possibility of funding.

"As I have repeatedly said the Highlands and Islands needs to get better broadband access as soon as possible.

"Hopefuly the Scottish Government is now realising this."


Peter Peacock to stand down at Coming Election

Peter Peacock, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands has announced he is standing down at the coming Scottish election.

He said: "At the coming Scottish election I would be entering my 30th consecutive year in elected office and I feel it is time for a change and to give myself some new challenges in life.

"It has been an enormous privilege to have had the opportunity to serve my community through elected office and to have done various jobs in local and Scottish government.

"I would not have missed for anything the experience of holding senior offices in Highland Regional Council and in being the first leader of Highland Council.

"Following that by being a Minister throughout the first and second Scottish Parliaments and to have served Labour’s first three First Ministers has given me experiences I will treasure always.

"Throughout that time I have met and worked with a huge number of people and faced many challenging situations, and I want to thank all those who have supported me in a whole variety of ways.

"It has been a pleasure to have been able to help many individual constituents through difficulties they were facing.

"It has all been hugely stimulating and rewarding, but there is a time to move on, and that time has come.

"The Labour Party has been a constant force for good in our society, writing wrongs, widening opportunity, fighting injustice, bringing hope and better futures for many.

"To have represented Labour is a matter of great pride to me, and I will continue to support the Labour cause in times ahead in whatever way I can.

"I believe Iain Gray will make a superb First Minister.

"He has my full support, and I will continue to make available to him and his team my experience in politics and government in any way I can to help secure his election and to deliver another successful Labour government.

"As this chapter of my work life closes, so I look forward to another opening, using my experience of public life to full effect."

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said: "It has been a pleasure and a privilege working alongside Peter over the past years.

"He has served the Highlands and Islands and indeed the whole of Scotland in a way that is unparalleled.

"I wish him well in the future – I am sure he will excel at whatever he turns his hand to."

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart said: "Peter has been a tremendous servant to the Highlands and Islands and to the Labour Party and has a fantastic political record he should be proud of.

"He has a great knowledge of Scottish issues, particularly those issues affecting the Highlands and Islands such as broadband, rural affairs and the environment.

"Peter is well respected across the political boundaries and as a colleague by Rhoda and I and I am sure he will continue to contribute to Scottish political life in one capacity or another."

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said: "Peter has made an enormous contribution to the Scottish Parliament.

"He was an excellent minister and was widely respected across all parties.

"As a backbencher he has continued to make a substantial contribution and a sign of the high regard he is held in is his recent appointment to the ad hoc committee on the Scotland bill.

"Peter’s calibre and experience will be missed not just in the Labour ranks but in the parliament at large.

"However I am sure he will continue to make a significant contribution to public life in Scotland"