CoHI was established in 1996 by the then Secretary of State (SoS) the Rt Hon Michael Forsyth MP, following calls for the revival of the former Highland Panel, abolished in 1964.
The Highland Panel's original principle was carried forward from 1947 into the current CoHI remit to,
"encourage the exchange of ideas among Member organisations, strengthen co-ordination of activity and strategic objectives, and maximise the effectiveness and sustainability of their development policies".
In 1996, the CoHI Membership included 8 MPs and 2 MEPs representing the H&I catchment and individuals appointed by the SoS. These individuals were nominated from the public sector organisations who were already represented (the Local Authorities; Highlands & Islands Enterprise; Tourist Boards; the Crofters Commission; Scottish Natural Heritage; UHIMI and the UHIMI Academic Council).
Following the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, Executive Ministers agreed that CoHI was to be re-focussed as a forum in which Ministers would meet the public sector organisations and other agencies and institutions for discussion on the economy of the area.
Changes were also made with regard to the CoHI Ministerial team. Prior to devolution, only the Secretary of State and either the Minister for the Highlands and Islands or the Minister for Education and Industry attended. In the re-focussed CoHI the Ministerial team was increased to a core team of 6; the First Minister; Deputy First Minister; Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, Deputy Minister ELL and Gaelic, Minister for Rural Affairs; Deputy Minister for Education; plus a Scotland Office Minister. Other Executive Ministers were also asked to attend as agenda topics dictated.
Since March 2002
The re-focussed CoHI format for each meeting has been further revised by limiting the agenda to 3 items. The Convention remit has also evolved to look at development in its widest sense, taking in cultural and social justice objectives.
The Ministerial core is now the Deputy First Minister, who is accompanied by portfolio Cabinet Secreatries/Ministers as agenda items dictate. The First Minister may also attend the Convention.
In line with these developments, the membership has been altered and now includes the Health Boards, Bord na Gaidhlig, VisitScotland, Cairngorm National Park Authority, Skills Development Scotland and the Forestry Commission.