Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Thursday, 17 September 2009 16:10 UK

Row blows up over campus funding

Aerial view of Beechwood site (Pic: HIE)
An aerial view of the site on the outskirts of Inverness

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has been criticised over plans to spend up to £25m on an education and research campus near Inverness.

The public agency said the scheme - its "biggest project yet" - would create jobs and retain talent in the region.

But Western Isles Council - Comhairle nan Eilean Siar - said HIE should be investing in fragile areas of the region and not "booming" Inverness.

Leader Angus Campbell said giving so much to the campus was "embarrassing".

HIE said the 120-acre development on the eastside of the city would be of benefit to all of the Highlands and Islands.

It stands to attract many millions from other sources over the next 20 years, and to have a huge economic impact on the city and the wider region
William Roe
HIE chairman

It expects the campus to create up to 6,000 jobs by 2030 and generate more than £38m a year for the local economy.

UHI - the prospective university of the Highlands and Islands - along with Inverness College, the Scottish Agricultural College and businesses could move into site.

Mr Campbell said he would make no comment on the merits of the project but he urged HIE to spread its investment rather than "pouring ever-increasing levels of resource into the already booming economy of Inverness".

Rounding on a comment by HIE chairman William Roe that the campus marked the agency's biggest project, Mr Campbell said: "That the biggest project that HIE has ever undertaken is in Inverness should be a cause of embarrassment and a sign of failure to him and to HIE."

The comhairle leader added that over the first seven months of 2009, the agency had only approved £350,000 in assistance for the Western Isles.

Following the board's decision, Mr Roe said: "Inverness Campus is the biggest project that HIE has ever undertaken.

"It's not just a big investment for us. It stands to attract many millions from other sources over the next 20 years, and to have a huge economic impact on the city and the wider region."

The next step will see HIE seeking to set up a formal partnership with UHI, Inverness College and the Scottish Agricultural College.

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