Ross and Blackford call for funding for tourism improvements
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SNP politicians Gail Ross and Ian Blackford are calling on the Scottish Government and Highland Council to look at additional funding for improvements to tourism services in the Highlands.
They are also urging apps and websites that promote the area as being perfect for “wild camping” to make sure the term is used correctly and that places being promoted are not farmland or common grazings.
Their joint move comes amid growing frustration about the actions of some visitors and concern over a lack of infrastructure to cope with large numbers of tourists who are camping or travelling in motorhomes.
Mrs Ross, the MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said: “We are rightly promoting Scotland, and especially the Highlands, as a fantastic place to visit and stay this summer. People are desperate to get away after lockdown and we should have been prepared for them, but the influx seems to have caught everyone off guard.
“I can understand why some camp sites are nervous about opening and have remained closed. But we are now at a turning point in terms of what services are available for tourists and this needs to be addressed.
“We could be looking at helping communities introduce a scheme like the one on mainland Europe. Aires [a network of motorhome stopovers] is very successful in places like France, giving tourists an affordable overnight option without the need to commit to more than one night.”
She added: “Tourism is a huge sector for us and we need to make sure it is managed correctly. People should always feel welcome to visit, but they should treat the area and its communities with respect.
"Some of the negativity I have seen recently on social media has to stop – it is not doing the reputation of the area any good.
“I also think that if levels of visitors continue as they are then a North Coast 500 permit should be given serious consideration. This has been mooted before and should now be on the table as a possible solution, along with many others.”
Mr Blackford, the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, said: “I have been contacted by residents from across the constituency who are concerned about the influx of visitors to fragile communities throughout the Highlands over the past week or so.
“It is natural that people will be keen to travel slightly further from their home, but it is only right that they do so in a responsible and safe manner which is respectful to our natural environment and to local residents. Campers should follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and leave the area as they found it.
“In the Highlands we are renowned for the welcome we provide and are delighted to welcome visitors back to enjoy our wonderful scenery and hospitality. We need to be having a conversation with our colleagues at Holyrood and Highland Council to ensure a safe and sensible way forward for both visitors and local residents.”
- Open letter to First Minister over catalogue of tourism problems in north-west
- Caithness councillor says wild camping is 'out of control' and action must be taken