Highland business owners’ plea for growth fund

Group says the North Highland region has been “disproportionately” affected by the pandemic

HIGHLAND business owners have called on the Scottish and UK Governments to create a new ‘growth fund’ to support the region as it attempts to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The North Highland Initiative – a group consisting of business and tourism industry representatives – has written to minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove, Caithness MP Jamie Stone MP, Kate Forbes and Fergus Ewing calling for a “long-term” solution to remedy issues of “infrastructure, connectivity and facilities provision” in the region which relies heavily on tourism.

The letter, which said the North Highland region has been “disproportionately” affected by the pandemic, is also urging the Holyrood and Westminster Governments to consider skills development for the hospitality trade, start-up business support and a drive for companies outwith Scotland to invest in the area as part of the fund.

Highland business backing the growth fund plea include Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland, Royal Dornoch Golf Club, Highland Food & Drink, Go Golspie, Mackays Hotel in Wick and Kylesku Hotel in Sutherland.

David Whiteford, chair of the North Highland Initiative, said: “We’re calling on both 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 of 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 whilst 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 which goes hand in hand with a greener, carbon neutral future.”