Highland residents could soon be able to see significant artworks and museum collections on their own doorstep, according to a pledge by the country’s culture secretary.
Fiona Hyslop has pledged to do whatever necessary to ensure the city maximises its pulling power once the redesigned castle complex comes to fruition.
She wants to guarantee Inverness “Victoria and Albert” status in showcasing the most iconic collections Scotland has to offer.
She spoke of her excitement on her latest visit to the city yesterday where she officially opened a new tourist information centre in the High Street and joined a taskforce overseeing the phenomenal growth of the NorthCoast 500 initiative.
Ms Hyslop said: “In terms of the castle, there’s been £15million of (city region deal) investment to help that project. It’s a fantastic asset for Inverness.
“As a government minister, I supported the move and investment in a new courts complex to make sure we had the opportunity in the first place.
“From the start, I not only asked Historic Environment Scotland to become involved but I was also insistent that the development at the castle can be of a standard that would assure that we’re going to have national collections showcased – whether from the national museums or national galleries of Scotland, those discussions are still ongoing as to what that will look like.
“I want it to be of a standard that if a plan can be put forward to make sure part of the Scottish national collections can be showcased here, that’s what I would like to see.”
National Galleries and National Museums Scotland confirmed in April they were keen to explore ideas surrounding the castle’s proposed transformation.
Both organisations welcomed ambitious plans to transform the historic building into a major tourist attraction.
Highland planning director Stuart Black signalled at the time that the council’s aim was to create an attraction similar in calibre to the V&A design museum being constructed in Dundee.
The council envisages the site being fully opened up to tourists in the early part of the next decade once the courts facility switches to a new justice centre in the city.
Speaking last night, Mike Smith, manager of the Inverness business improvement district (Bid) project, said: “It’s great to hear this from the minister. We have a massive opportunity and there seems to be a major commitment from the Scottish Government and Highland Council to create something very special.
“It’s going to cost funding but we need to think big. Inverness and our ever increasing number of visitors deserve something of that standard.”
The new wifi-friendly VisitScotland iCentre in the High Street is highlighting events, hidden gems and must-see attractions as well as promoting Highland products.
The agency’s most recent data shows that more than 2.2million overnight trips were made to the Highlands in 2015-2016, contributing £705million to the region’s economy.