Business leaders make their case for North Highland Growth Fund
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Business leaders in the north Highlands are calling on the Holyrood and Westminster governments to set up a growth fund to help the region recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
They say a long-term strategy is needed to ensure delivery of the appropriate infrastructure without losing the "magic" of the area, which relies heavily on tourism.
Led by the North Highland Initiative, the business leaders have written to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove as well as Highland politicians Jamie Stone MP, Kate Forbes MSP and Fergus Ewing MSP outlining the need for a special economic recovery plan.
Those calling for a North Highland Growth Fund to help businesses and communities include Dunrobin Castle, Royal Dornoch Golf Club, Highland Food & Drink Club, Go Golspie!, Mackays Hotel in Wick and Kylesku Hotel in Sutherland.
David Whiteford, chairman of the North Highland Initiative, said: “We’re calling on the Scottish and Westminster governments to work together and collaborate to make a special economic case for the north Highlands. We need urgent investment in public infrastructure so visitors stay longer and spend more to help create a strong economy once again.”
Tanja Lister from the Kylesku Hotel said: "There is absolutely no doubt that the north Highlands has untapped potential. There are not many places that offer such an opportunity to enjoy nature, wildlife and fine food and drink as this part of the Highlands.
"It is clear, though, that we need a long-term strategy to ensure we deliver the appropriate infrastructure while keeping the magic and authenticity of the area.
“We also need some very quick short-term initiatives to manage the immediate needs – such as refuse, parking and toilets.
"Any economic development needs to be managed sensitively – there is a reason these wild, untamed places are so popular. We have an opportunity to do this in a way that goes hand in hand with a greener, carbon-neutral future."
In July, Mr Gove was given a first-hand account of the challenges faced by the region's tourism and hospitality sector. He met Mr Stone, the MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, in Alness and took part in a remote round-table event arranged by Murray Lamont of Mackays Hotel.