MANAGEMENT representatives and union leaders at the McDermott oil fabrication yard near Ardersier met the new Minister of State at the Scottish Office during his first official engagement in September.
Lord Glenarthur listened to concerns raised at the work-starved yard but could offer no immediate solution.
"So much depends on the state of the oil industry," he said. "I cannot offer any false hopes for new orders. But I will study with great care the suggestions they made to me."
The previous day, the Secretary of State for Scotland, Malcolm Rifkind, had visited the region taking in the Howard Doris oil yard at Kishorn.
He also addressed the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) and Inverness Chamber of Commerce Industry Year Dinner at the Caledonian Hotel in Inverness.
He said the Highlands and Islands Development Board had achieved a great deal including helping to lever investment resulting in 18,400 new jobs and protecting 6000 existing jobs over the past decade.
The population of the area which had been in decline for more than a century had increased by 14 per cent in the last two decades.
"The area is no longer the poor relation," he said. "Incomes are now on a par with the rest of Scotland and job opportunities have increased."