Nicola Sturgeon has urged the people of Inverness to “seize the moment” to shape the future of the Highland capital and voice their ideas for spending a £300million funding package.
The first minister made the City Deal rallying call on the eve of her Cabinet’s visit to north and gave the “game-changing” package her backing for the first time.
She said she wanted everyone to have a say in how the City Deal cash was spent.
Last week, the UK Government pledged £100,000 to Highland Council to help accelerate it plans and it is hoped the special status could be approved later this year.
The City Deal money could be used to pay for proposed new sports facilities, a visitor attraction at Inverness Castle and a cultural development featuring a museum, library and gallery.
But SNP leader Ms Sturgeon said that the application was also an opportunity for communities, business and civic society to voice their ideas.
She said the Scottish Government would help fund local consultation as the bid was developed.
The first minister said: “Cities and their regions are the engines of our economy and the Scottish Government is committed to working with Scotland’s seven cities to optimise growth for the benefit of the whole of Scotland.
“It is great news that Inverness have been invited to bid for City Deal funding – the Scottish Government is right behind the bid, working with the Scottish Futures Trust and the Highland Council to further develop their strategic case.
“We will work with any Scottish city region considering a deal to make sure that we help them get the best possible outcome.
“A successful bid could see the Inverness area benefit from major infrastructure projects, innovation and new jobs.
“The City Deal could be used to develop a programme of work which will greatly add to the value of the local economy over the years to come.
“It is really important that everyone who lives and works in Inverness is given the chance to make their views known about what they would like to see from a City Deal.
“People are our cities’ greatest assets and those who are based in Inverness and contribute to everyday life are best placed to determine the future of their city.
“I would encourage everyone from business, communities and wider civic society to get involved in backing this bid.”
Glasgow became the first Scottish city to secure the status last year, winning £1.2billion in UK and Scottish government funding, as well as loan money.
Aberdeen is also in the running for a City Deal, outlining plans for £3billion of investment.
Leader of Highland Council, Councillor Drew Hendry, said: “Securing a City Deal could be transformative, boosting our economy and improving the quality of life.”
The Scottish Cabinet will hold its private meeting at the Ironworks in Inverness today, before Ms Sturgeon hosts a public question and answer session at the venue in the evening.