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North business leader calls for action on NC500 to sustain 'its long-term viability'


By Gordon Calder


THE North Coast 500 is "a fantastic asset" – but businesses, communities, politicians and public agencies all need to work together to ensure its long-term viability, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The organisation's Highlands and Islands area leader Tanja Lister welcomed the latest research on the economic impact of the NC500 route, which is reported to have generated almost £23 million last year and created the equivalent of 180 jobs.

She says "significant benefits" have been brought to the north by the route but she would like to see more done to ensure its retains its popularity.

"The NC500 cannot be taken for granted," Ms Lister said. "Fashions come and go and what matters now is that we all – businesses, communities and, very importantly, Scottish Government, Highland Council and public agencies – work together to ensure its long-term sustainability.

"Together we can ensure that the natural and cultural assets that make the northern Highlands so attractive are preserved; that the quality, quantity, price and location of businesses and services meets visitors’ needs and expectations; that essential infrastructure like roads is fit for purpose; and that the welcome our visitors receive is always warm.

"All of these things have a huge impact on visitor enjoyment and on the likelihood of them returning and recommending us to others, and we must get it right.

"For the FSB’s part, as the largest business organisation in the northern Highlands, we are delighted to work with everyone with an interest in the health of the north’s economy to make the most of this fantastic asset."

The NC500 generated almost £23 million last year
The NC500 generated almost £23 million last year

Caithness civic leader Willie Mackay supports that approach. He claimed when the NC500 was launched a lot of visitors just wanted "to race round it in prestigious cars" and did not spend much time in the area.

Now they are staying longer and touring the attractions the far north has to offer, according to the Wick and East Caithness Highland councillor.

"That benefits the economy more and is really good," he said.

"We do need more toilet and parking facilities for people willing to stay at scenic locations. The NC500 is a world-recognised route but the only way to make to make it sustainable is if we all work together to achieve that."

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