Highland business leaders have stressed the urgency of A9 dualling with the Scottish Government’s small business minister Richard Lochhead.
Among other topics under discussion were staffing challenges, the cost-of-living crisis, rising energy costs as well as Inverness Airport development.
Moray MSP Mr Lochhead was appointed by First Minister Humza Yousaf in the cabinet reshuffle.
Chief executive of Visit Inverness Loch Ness, Michael Golding, said the meeting at Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness was “extremely valuable” to highlight key issues.
The Scottish Government is under pressure to fulfil its pledge to dual the A9 from Perth to Inverness.
The project is widely considered to have significant benefits from the Highlands once completed, which the government now say is far beyond the original 2025 deadline.
Tourism and hospitality are two sectors which could benefit from improved transport links, which would have been emphasised at the meeting.
‘A world leader in 21st Century tourism’
Mr Lochhead has taken over the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Leadership Group to champion Scotland’s ambition to be a tourism leader.
Mr Golding said: “For the newly appointed minister to choose Inverness and Loch Ness for his first tourism meeting speaks volumes about our region’s contribution to Scotland’s tourism economy as a whole.
“There is no substitute for speaking directly to those running a business in tourism to really understand their priorities and, crucially, how the Scottish Government can help.”
He knows how important tourism is to the Inverness area and was delighted with the chance to convey the challenges and opportunities within the industry.
Mr Lochhead added: “It was great to visit Inverness to meet local business leaders and hear first-hand about the opportunities for the sector as we strive to become a world leader in 21st Century tourism.
“Our discussion touched on many of the challenges currently facing the sector but also highlighted the dedication, quality and excellence of businesses operating in Inverness and the wider region.
“The tourism and hospitality sector plays a crucial role in our everyday lives and contributes to a well-being economy by creating jobs and sustaining communities.”