The historic Kirking of the Council ceremony in Inverness has been cancelled for a second year as Covid cases continue to rise across the region.
The annual spectacle was due to return to the streets of Inverness on Saturday following a two-year delay to proceedings.
However, organisers have confirmed the event has been scrapped for a second consecutive year over concerns for the rising infection rate in the Highlands.
Highland Council officials were forced to pull the plug on the event last year, for the first time in more than 400 years, due to social distancing requirements and to avoid any risk to public health.
Provost and leader of Inverness and Area councillor Helen Carmichael said it was with “great regret” that they have had to cancel festivities.
She said: “The Kirking of the Council is a long-held city tradition and it is with great regret that we have decided, with the agreement of Church Leaders, to cancel this year’s Kirking parade and church service.
“This decision does not diminish our commitment to the value of this much loved and respected annual event. We feel that this is the only sensible decision to take while Covid rates are extremely high at the present time.”
Kirking of the Council
The annual parade and church services involves up to 200 people, led by local pipe bands parading through the city centre.
Starting at Eastgate, the procession usually marches past Inverness Town House where councillors dressed in traditional red robes join at the rear, followed by the city Provost.
Dr Jenny Wares, consultant in public health medicine urged the public to remain vigilant as cases continue to increase across the Highlands.
She said: “Cases across the NHS Highland area are widespread and are continuing to increase with NHS Highland currently having the sixth highest rates in Scotland.
“We are urging everyone to please remain cautious and minimise contacts during this period of high levels to try to prevent further spread in our communities. In addition to trying to minimise our contact with others, there are still lots of things we can all do to help limit the spread even though many of the previous restrictions have eased.
“Wearing face masks when inside or in crowded areas, regular hand washing, regular testing using LFD tests when you have no symptoms and, when invited, please come forward to get vaccinated. All of these will help us in keeping the COVID numbers down.
“Members of the public are also being asked to continue to be vigilant for symptoms of COVID-19.”