Fiona Hys­lop set to visit Skye for tourism meet­ing

The Oban Times - - News - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­

THE CAB­I­NET Sec­re­tary for Cul­ture, Tourism and Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs has ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion from con­stituency MSP Kate Forbes to visit Skye.

It is hoped Fiona Hys­lop will ad­dress a gath­er­ing of com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tives, lo­cal busi­nesses and public bod­ies at the sec­ond of a se­ries of meet­ings or­gan­ised by Ms Forbes. A date has yet to be fi­nalised. The meet­ings are part of an on­go­ing process, led by Ms Forbes, to iden­tify and find so­lu­tions to the pres­sures on Skye caused by in­creased tourism on the is­land.

Last month, the first of these took place in Portree and gath­ered ex­per­tise from lo­cal busi­nesses and res­i­dents in a bid to cope with grow­ing numbers of vis­i­tors.

Ms Forbes said she is de­lighted Ms Hys­lop will visit the is­land.

She said: ‘I am de­lighted Fiona Hys­lop has ac­cepted my in­vi­ta­tion to come and visit Skye, which I firmly be­lieve is the jewel in the crown of High­land tourism, as ev­i­denced by the huge growth in vis­i­tor numbers.

‘In pre­vi­ous dis­cus­sions, the Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary has recog­nised the pres­sures on the is­land’s in­fras­truc­ture and the need to make the vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence ex­cel­lent so that they re­turn.

‘ We have been very suc­cess­ful in at­tract­ing peo­ple to the area, with mar­ket­ing cam­paigns and fan­tas­tic nat­u­ral scenery.

‘How­ever, there’s never been a for­ward-think­ing strat­egy that pre­pared for all the vis­i­tors so Skye desperately needs a strat­egy that man­ages the in­flux of tourists.’

The Skye MSP said the is­lands in­fras­truc­ture is ‘creak­ing at the seams’, adding: ‘Or­di­nary res­i­dents who have to get to the shops or pick up chil­dren from school are fac­ing traf­fic jams in the most re­mote ar­eas of Skye be­cause of the num­ber of cars.

‘That’s even more dan­ger­ous if emer­gency ve­hi­cles can’t get past, then it can be­come a mat­ter of ex­treme ur­gency.

‘It is also mak­ing a mess of the land­scape, with a num­ber of sto­ries about un­pleas­ant presents left be­hind by those who can’t find a bin or a toi­let.’

Ms Forbes said a num­ber of is­sues have ‘fallen through the cracks’, with no strat­egy al­lo­cat­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for im­prov­ing in­fras­truc­ture.

She added: ‘ Take toi­lets or roads for ex­am­ple, these are the re­spon­si­bil­ity of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, and yet we’ve seen toi­lets be­ing shut across Skye in the last few years.

‘Re­cently, we’ve seen plans to re­solve park­ing at the Old Man of Storr make progress, with Staf­fin Com­mu­nity Trust tak­ing the lead. They’ve made use of the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s Land Fund.

‘The North­ern Light­house Board is also in­vest­ing in Neist Point, an­other hugely pop­u­lar area.

‘I wel­come these ef­forts, but I firmly be­lieve we need a ro­bust plan and that’s why I have kicked off a se­ries of meet­ings to bring ev­ery­one round the ta­ble and ac­tu­ally draft a plan that we can track progress against.’

Skye res­i­dents are fac­ing traf­fic jams from tourists vis­it­ing the fairy pools.

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