Business leaders in Inverness yesterday backed the £315million City Region Deal investment as a boost for the economy across the north.
Speaking at a ceremony marking the launch of the funding, Inverness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Nicol called the deal “momentous”.
He said: “It’s a really positive endorsement of the city of Inverness but also as important is the opportunity for the whole of the wider Highland region.
“For me it’s the mixture of the measures that we’ve heard about, it’s not one thing, it’s a blend of strategic issues such as transport, digital infrastructure, the issues around housing and skills, tourism opportunities, the fact that we’re building on the assets that we’ve got around the city.”
He added: “We’ve still got a lot of work to do on transport infrastructure especially but some of these measures will really help the city in particular and will also make it a better place for visitors coming in to trade and do business here.”
Fraser Grieve, regional director for the Scottish Council for Development and Industry said: “It’s fantastic to finally have this deal agreed and signed.
“The whole process has involved so many along the way and it’s a huge boost to Inverness and the Highland region and it will really see some transformational change.
“Unlocking the Longman Interchange, the East Link, dealing with digital connectivity, better air links – all of these things will make a huge contribution across the region as it grows in the coming years.”
David Richardson, development manager for the Highlands and Islands, said: “It’s great news for the Highlands, I think congratulations have to go the council and for the whole team who pulled all of this together.
“Clearly for the future now everybody needs to work together to make the thing happen.
“I think the big stress for me is digital connectivity. I know our members right across the Highlands focus very much on that, it’s the real game-changer and deal-maker for the Highlands.
“There was talk about the declining population of Sutherland where I live and right down the west coast.
“If we can get better digital in there that will encourage more families to stay and promote business.”
One of the beneficaries of the City Deal will be the University of the Highlands and Islands, with principal Professor Clive Mullholland saying that the investment would help create new jobs and attract new students from all around the world.
He said: “We have an opportunity as a university to be highly distinctive. We think we’ve got a niche which will make us internationally recognised.
“We can be very different to a lot of universities.”