Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Monday, 15 March 2010

Inverness College urged to go for Beechwood campus

Aerial view of Beechwood site (Pic: HIE)
The proposed site for the campus is on the outskirts of the city

A cross-party group of northern MSPs has urged the principal of Inverness College to choose a controversial out-of-town site for its new campus.

In a letter, seven politicians said Beechwood was the best place for it.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise has earmarked the area for the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Now Inverness College board is under pressure to move there too, rather than redevelop premises at the Longman Industrial Estate near the city centre.

The letter about the campus was written by Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing and fellow SNP parliamentarians Rob Gibson and Dave Thomson.

The others were Labour's David Stewart, Peter Peacock and Rhoda Grant, with John Farquhar Munro for the Lib Dems.

'Best option'

In their letter - which was copied to Education Minister Mike Russell - they said it was their collective view that the Beechwood site was the best and least constrained in terms of developing further education facilities in the Highland capital for the future.

David Stewart and John Farquhar Munro said it was highly unusual for rival politicians to come together on a particular course of action.

Dave Thomson said the decision was of massive importance to Inverness and the Highlands.

A spokesman for Inverness College said: "As local politicians it's of course right and proper that the respective MSPs should hold strong, personal positions on this important issue and the college wholeheartedly values their input and engagement as well as their support for the future development of Inverness College."

He added: "Our position on the location of our new campus has been clear from the outset - namely that the college board will reach its decision based on the credible, empirical evidence presented in detailed appraisal reports into both potential sites.

"The board is presently in the process of evaluating these reports in a thorough and considered manner to ensure the eventual location delivers our vision of a 21st Century campus which meets the needs of staff, students, stakeholders and the wider community, now and in the years to come."

The spokesman said the board was nearing the conclusion of this process.

HIE has been criticised for its plans to spend up to £25m on the education and research campus near Inverness.

It claimed the project would create jobs and retain talent.

But Western Isles Council has said HIE should be investing in fragile areas of the region and not "booming" Inverness.

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