MSPs' 'constructive' meeting with NC500 representatives
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North MSPs Maree Todd and Gail Ross have spoken of their "constructive" virtual meeting with North Coast 500 representatives, stakeholders and local business owners this week.
Since the tourism sector was given the green light to reopen on July 15, the Highlands has seen an influx of visitors opting for "staycations".
However, many Highland residents, particularly those in towns and villages on the popular North Coast 500 route, have raised concerns over the behaviour and actions of certain visitors.
Highlands and Islands MSP Maree Todd said: “Over the last month, many constituents have reached out to me to raise concerns about the NC500 route and the unacceptable behaviour of some visitors. With reports of litter, human waste, abandoned tents and fire damage, this not only presents a risk to public health but also raises serious environmental concerns.
“I was pleased to meet this week with NC500 representatives and stakeholders to discuss the issues affecting tourism in the far north. Improved infrastructure, education on responsible camping and better communication between communities, the Highland Council and NC500 representatives were all common themes.
“I was reassured by the mutual level of concern around the issues raised and felt the eagerness to find workable solutions through a co-ordinated response.
“We're well known for our welcome here in the Highlands and we're rightly proud of our beautiful surroundings – of course, we want to share this with visitors but this has to be done safely and responsibly.
“I look forward to further discussions taking place as we look to plan ahead for the next tourist season."
Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP, Gail Ross said: “I found it very useful to meet with representatives of the NC500 and various businesses along the route. It was clear that everyone agrees there are several issues to be addressed and that this needs to be done before the tourism season begins next year. I was heartened to hear that my suggestion of getting the NC500 working group together again is happening and hopefully this will lead to positive solutions.
“One other thing that needs to happen now is more community involvement. It was suggested having a representative from each community to feed into the NC500 about changes in facilities etc could be possible and I think this would be very valuable.
“I am satisfied that there have been some moves towards solutions but it is clear we have a long way to go yet and more discussions are needed with both the Scottish Government and the Highland Council. I really hope that we can now move forward to help our communities realise the positives of tourism in the future.”