Communities across Ullapool and neighbouring areas have helped to create a ‘Safe For All Charter’ to inform and protect residents and visitors as Scotland moves out of lockdown.
Spearheaded by the Ullapool Community Trust, the charter has been informed by a survey conducted across the local area which yielded more than 420 responses from both residents and business operators.
The survey sought to assess the views of people living in Ullapool and the surrounding area about moving through the Scottish Government’s route map out of the coronavirus pandemic for reopening and the anticipated return of visitors to the area.
Speaking to the Free Press, Tim Gauntlett, a director of the Ullapool Community Trust, said: “A few months ago we knew there would be a time in the near future when we would need visitors to return to the area.
“However, with growing anxiety from residents, we had to look to address the issue of a conflict of interests between the worries residents have about people bringing Covid-19 into the area, and the very real need for tourism and the income it brings into Ullapool.
“We also wanted to conduct a full consultation with everyone in the area as far as possible – rather than just our own (the Trust’s) individual views.
“In talking, firstly locally, and then across the Highlands, we found everyone is facing the same kind of issue – that being, how do we prepare for visitors?”
Tim said a small group of a dozen people coordinated the consultation using the Scottish Government guidelines as a starting point.
He said: “This is a cooperative effort, the people in the group are both residents and people who run tourism businesses such as self-catering and youth hostels – we are trying to represent both parties.”
Tim told the Free Press that the purpose of the survey was to get people talking so that the community would be prepared in a realistic way for what was going to happen in the near future.
He added: “We got the survey out very quickly and received 425 replies – which I think indicates the level of concern and desire for people to be able to express themselves and they were grateful someone was there listening to them.
“We’re all in the same position of having been locked up for weeks and weeks and being told what to do.
“People don’t know what the future holds, and therefore it’s an anxious time for everyone.”
Tim was keen to stress that it was important visitors were made to feel welcome, while also being mindful of people’s anxiety levels as the footfall to the area increases.
“The charter is very simple and it repeats messages that everybody already knows,” he said.
“We are not trying to make any new message – it is the same message that the Scottish Government has put out.
“Plan ahead whatever you are doing, keep everybody including yourself safe, wear a mask, adhere to social distancing, and wash your hands.
“We hope it is the same message that is seen wherever visitors go in the Highlands – we are not the only community that has produced a charter; Gairloch has, Dornoch has, and so has Kinlochewe – we’re all trying to promote something in a similar way.
“It is basically to remind people, you have not just come to a wonderful Highland landscape, you have also come to our homes – and we ask of you the same thing you would ask of yourself if you are at home.”
To view the survey results: click here.
Along with the distribution of the charter, the Ullapool Community Trust has also committed to:
Consulting with local shops and Tesco about protection for locals.
Consulting with the Highland Council regarding public toilets and waste management.
Consulting with VisitScotland and NC500 about the focus on destination promotion rather than touring route promotion.
Providing long-term support for vulnerable community members.
Continuing community group meetings to enable actions to be taken as and when needed.
Supporting the school community to reopen safely.
Continuing support for local healthcare and social care workers.