Carroll Buxton, Deputy Chief Executive, HIE

As we deal with the present crisis, we must also look to the future, writes Carroll Buxton, interim chief executive at HIE.

Businesses and communities around the Highlands and Islands are adapting and responding as best they can to the COVID-19 situation.

Several are involved in helping to tackle the crisis, see here for examples.

Some continue to provide key services, such as food and drink and energy production and delivery – sectors that rely on an extensive supply chain. And others remain closed or vastly scaled down to help restrict the spread of the virus.

All of this carries huge financial implications and challenges greater than any we’ve seen in many decades.

At HIE we're maintaining frontline services for our clients. Our staff are working effectively from home to provide valuable support for businesses and communities through this difficult and unprecedented time.

We are in constant contact with our partner agencies and Scottish Government to provide a consistent and collaborative response and contribute to the design and delivery of vital new initiatives, aimed at supporting businesses through this initial phase, and in the longer term.

On our COVID-19 website section we’ve published advice and links for further information on a range of support being made available and tailored for industry sectors. We’ll keep updating this as further opportunities and funds are developed.

Of course, it’s not only commercial enterprises that need support. The third sector (social economy) and communities also need help.

Following the announcement of the Scottish Government £350 million investment package to support communities in responding to the COVID-19 emergency across Scotland, we're working very closely with the Scottish Government and a range of national partners to develop support for our region’s communities.

Looking ahead

While it’s crucial that we focus on tackling the immediate challenges of this international crisis, it's also important to keep one eye on the future.

The full impact of COVID-19 on businesses and communities in the Highlands and Islands is as yet unknown, but we do need to think about and plan for the recovery stage.

To that end, we and our partners are carrying out work to prioritise resources and gather industry intelligence that will help inform future policy and support mechanisms to maximise our effectiveness.

The global economy will be different as national and regional economies emerge from lockdown. The age-old principles of research, collaboration and innovation will be key to competitiveness and a successful recovery.

The Highlands and Islands has a great track record in these principles. We're a hugely resourceful and resilient region and I am confident we will continue to play a key role in Scotland’s recovery in the years to come.


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