HIGHLANDS and Islands Enterprise yesterday announced a major reshaping

of its core structure in Inverness in recognition that the 10 Highland

and Island local enterprise companies had come of age.

The 130 staff members at HIE's Inverness headquarters were told of the

changes yesterday afternoon. They were told there should be no

redundancies required and that the new core structure would reflect the

increased authority delegated to the Lecs as the front-line delivery

points which now employ 140 of the network's staff.

''We are going to be less of a nannie to the Lecs and concentrate more

on strategic planning,'' was how one insider described it to The Herald.

The reshuffle, effective from December, will see the number of HIE

divisions reduced from seven to five. The divisions, which are currently

defined by sector such as tourism, industry or training, will be

redefined according to function such as ''Network Strategy'' or

''Network Operations''.

The latter, which will be the main focus of practical help to the Lecs

in their activities, is to be headed by Ralph Palmer who is currently

the chief executive of one of the Lecs, Ross and Cromarty Enterprise.

His place at the Invergordon-based Race in turn will be filled by Sandy

Cumming, HIE's director of natural resources.

Significantly, HIE has created teams to pursue two key current

programmes. Ian MacAskill, who was the secretary of the old Highlands

and Islands Development Board before it was translated into HIE, is to

head a new European Projects Unit.

Meanwhile, Robin Lingard is to be the project leader on the programme

to develop a University of the Highlands and Islands.

Differing constructions were being put on yesterday's announcement but

it is known that the Scottish Office has been pleased at the way HIE's

close working relationship with its Lecs has developed and might hold

HIE's progress up as an example to Scottish Enterprise.

HIE's chief executive, Iain Robertson, for his part, was clear there

was nothing sinister in the announcement: ''Delivery of development

activity in sectors such as industry, tourism, agriculture or fisheries

is mainly undertaken at local level by the Lecs. The threefold role of

the HIE core is to enable and support Lecs, to take care of overall

strategy, and to put into effect Highlands and Islands' projects and


''The new structure is aligned directly to this work and will make us

more flexible and effective by encouraging the formation, across

divisions, of informal teams combining skills and experience to achieve

particular objectives as they arise. The benefits of better

cross-departmental teamwork were identified by recent meetings of middle

and senior managers as a key requirement for the Network's continued

success,'' he said.