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The trades union movement has been invited to take a leading part in helping fashion policies to shape the future d...
The trades union movement has been invited to take a leading part in helping fashion policies to shape the future development of the Highlands and Islands. The offer was made by The Highland Council convener, Peter Peacock, speaking at the recent Highlands and Islands conference of the STUC. Cllr Peacock set out a range of the opportunities and challenges confronting the Highlands which are emerging from the council's major planning exercise, 'Looking Ahead for the Highlands'.

Mr Peacock spelt out how The Highland Council saw the area as one which had the potential to be one of the most prosperous regions in Europe over the coming 25 years by playing to its strengths - its high educational standards, its low crime rates, its lack of congestion, its cultural distinctiveness, its superb environment, its strong community life, its growing population and its high standard of living.

Modern business and families were looking for these factors, which comparatively few other areas of the UK could offer.

Mr Peacock said, 'The key challenge facing us all is to encourage continued sustainable growth in our economy and economic opportunity, creating more and better paid jobs and in 25 years time still be enjoying the benefits of having the highest educational standards in the UK, still have the lowest crime rates, still have towns that are uncongested by traffic, still be culturally distinct, still be living in real communities of real scale and with strong values, and have seen our communications improve significantly.

'It is in helping meet these challenges that the trade union movement can play a vital role. Trades unions are key stakeholders in securing economic prosperity in the Highlands. They are highly expert in understanding the challenges and the opportunities facing their industries, they have a crucial part to play in helping plan for the future success of those industries, whether it is in engineering, forestry, transport, communications or in the range of public sector services. The insights trades unions can bring will be a crucial element in developing the strong social partnerships and the more inclusive approach that will be needed to develop a strong Highlands and Islands.'

Mr Peacock invited the STUC to form a working group of its members to act with the council and other agencies in debating the future of the Highlands and in helping set in place the policies that will be needed for the future. He continued: 'I was very encouraged by the positive response I received from those at the conference and the willingness to become involved in developing the agenda for the future. From the discussions at the weekend alone a range of new insights were forthcoming and I look forward to working closely with the members of the STUC in the Highlands over coming months on tackling the issues we all share together to plan a better future.

Mr Peacock cited as an example the oil fabrication sector of the economy which currently supports over 6,000 jobs in the Highlands and Islands - more than employed in engineering on the Clyde.

He said: 'The AEEU, which has over 8,000 members in the Highlands and Islands, have a range of insights into what is needed to support their members job opportunities into the future. With their active involvement in helping shape the policy agenda for the future, the council and others can support them in arguing for the policies that are needed to keep the current high levels of employment in oil fabrication well into the future - what this means for developments in the Atlantic, what this means for health and safety policy, what this means for environmental policy and so on.'

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