Referendum campaigns clash over plans for Highlands and Islands

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey.
Inverness: Highlands a priority for both cvampaigns.© STV

The Scottish Government is trying to "airbrush out" the different identities of Scotland's communities in its drive for independence, according to chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

The rollout of armed police in Highland communities, the sidelining of the Highlands' economic development board, the abolition of local emergency control rooms and a reduction in council autonomy are evidence of the SNP's "massive centralisation" drive, the Highland Liberal Democrat MP will say in a speech in Inverness on Friday.

Mr Alexander wants average speed cameras removed from the A9 and has urged the Scottish Government to accelerate plans to upgrade the whole route to dual carriageway.

He pledged that a No vote in the independence referendum would lead to a federal UK, with power devolved directly to local communities rather than handed to "the Holyrood elite".

"No thanks does not mean no change - far from it," he will say.

"But our philosophy of federalism does not stop at further empowering Holyrood, important though that is. A federal approach means distributing power to the most appropriate level - Europe, UK, Scotland, and local. Federalism means devolution from Edinburgh, not just devolution to Edinburgh.

"I believe a fundamental part of a new settlement in Scotland after a No vote must be more powers held and used here in the Highlands and Islands, and in other local communities in Scotland."

Fergus Ewing, SNP MSP for Inverness and Nairn, said: "A Yes vote will mean that the people and industries of the north of Scotland will have far gather influence over a Scottish Parliament than could ever be the case at Westminster.

"Currently there are only 15 MPs representing the north of Scotland at Westminster - just 1% of the total number of Parliamentarians - while there are 32 MSPs representing the same area in the Scottish Parliament, or 25%. That speaks volumes about the amount of representation that is achieved in Scotland as opposed to London.

"Mr Alexander is one of those 15 MPs supposed to be representing the north of Scotland but, as everyone in his constituency knows, his first loyalties are to the London Treasury, not the Highlands. That would all change with a Yes vote and independence, whoever represented the seat at Holyrood."