All four Skye councillors were on hand this week to kick-start the next stage in the process that could see a multi-agency investment plan for Skye and Raasay approved by March of next year.
Consulting community planning partners on the specific projects that should be included in the plan started last week, and the members of the Eilean a’ Cheo ward were keen to hear the views of voters in the next stage in the process due to take place in January. As well as the council, the plan involves Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Futures Trust.
All three agencies will help identify funding, once the list of projects has been agreed under five broad headings: Strengthening communities, health and education, sustainable tourism, digital and transport infrastructure and a diverse and green economy.
This week, following an online area committee meeting, Skye and Raasay councillors welcomed the progress to date (see below).
Tourism body SkyeConnect also welcomed the potential for the plan to deliver material benefits for the island.
A spokesman added: “The priorities for SkyeConnect are, unsurprisingly, additional toilet facilities, road improvements, car parking and a greater provision of ’stop-over’ locations for campervans with appropriate basic infrastructure. In addition, SkyeConnect is working with a number of bodies to develop a so-called ‘internet of things’ which will greatly assist in managing the flow of visitors around the island.”
The ‘internet of things’ concept sees digital infrastructure providing real time information on traffic flow and footfall at key locations. This can then be used to send mobile alerts to visitors with suggestions for alternative sites that are not too busy.
John Gordon (pictured above) was pleased the plan was “progressing well” as it had been a priority for Skye and Raasay councillors for some time. He also thought that upgrading Portree harbour would be an ideal project.
“This update is encouraging and is an exciting development for Skye and Raasay,” he added. “Over the last few years we have seen some great partnership working at various tourist hot-spots that has attracted some investment which has made a significant difference, but we acknowledge there is much to do, and major investment is still needed.
“The local area committee and partners are ambitious for Skye and Raasay and this investment plan which spells out actions for coordinating and securing funding and for the implementation of the plan.”
Calum Munro highlighted the redevelopment of Uig harbour as a possible candidate for inclusion.
He added: “The development of the Skye and Raasay investment plan is at an important and exciting phase as over the next two months stakeholders gather to engage with all the potential projects which will be part of that plan. It will be great to look at projects and see which ones best achieve the outcomes we want to see for Skye and Raasay in terms of infrastructure, strengthening communities, health and education, developing a green and diverse economy and sustainable tourism.
“Looking at these projects and identifying interconnectedness and partnership opportunities is crucial and it’s clear that to bring in the required investment there needs to be an approach which is strategic and cohesive.
“We are now at the stage where virtually the whole of Skye and Raasay have formed community trusts so I’m really looking forward to seeing some of these communities building on the work they’ve already done and achieving some of their other ambitions over the next two-three years.”
Calum MacLeod said: “I’d like to see a collaborative economic recovery plan continuing with all relevant stakeholders’ involvement that is essential to address the Covid impact, and also a continuing plan to address at pace more attainable affordable housing. “The plan would also be a great opportunity to improve sustainable green tourism including better public transport infrastructure and the Skye cycle path.
“It is a necessity to see trunk road agencies working closer together in achieving better and safer measures for all road users and residents working with councillors. The good work and investment that has been established to date on improving various key projects should continue going forward towards full development.”
For John Finlayson, a place-based and joined up Skye plan is “long overdue” and it was essential that the public sector, businesses, community interests and the wider community “work together to support economic recovery and development taking account of the unique challenges and the unique opportunities” in the Eilean a’ Cheo ward.
He added: “The key areas of focus in what has to be an outcome driven plan and which were included in the report to the area committee are strong starting points for further community discussion and engagement. But I doubt many willargue that strengthening communities, health and education, sustainable tourism, digital and transport infrastructure and a diverse and green economy are not areas we need to focus on.
“I personally have a strong commitment to ensuring the best for our young people. This of course means that we need to make sure that our children are educated in 21st century buildings which provide safe, healthy and modern learning environments and I will continue to champion the need to build new schools at Broadford and Dunvegan.”