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West Highlands a ‘growing force in Scotland’s economy’

Published: 19/02/2024

Challenges 'stem from a good place'

Alastair Nicolson, HIE area manager for Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross

The West Highlands is a growing force in Scotland’s economy, according to Alastair Nicolson HIE's area manager for Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross.

Blogging on HIE’s website, Alastair reflects on recent media coverage about the challenges facing rural parts of the region but insists ‘the glass is more than half full'.

“While we’re certainly not without the many challenges detailed in the media articles,” he says, “the West Highlands is nevertheless a growing force in Scotland’s economy.

“There’s so much going on here, from small scale developments to larger longer-term projects. This is having a significant cumulative impact on Lochaber’s economic fortunes in the wake of some extremely challenging years. It’s also providing opportunities that many young people will be looking for.”

The blog, entitled ‘Quest of the West’, points to examples such as SSE’s pumped hydro storage project at Coire Glas, Scotland’s largest infrastructure project under development this century. It also refers to developments by Kishorn Port limited, plans by Alvance, and the confidence of other inward investors such as Binderholz, Mowi, and Bakkafrost, who are all investing in the region.

Alastair also highlights moves by local companies such as Sonas Hotel Group (Skye), the Isle of Skye Candle Company and Highland Soap Company, which have all expanded recently.

“It’s no surprise that there’s full employment here, with demand for labour even exceeding supply in many sectors – particularly hospitality. Yes, that in itself presents challenges, particularly around talent attraction and housing, but those challenges stem from a good place and work is progressing to address them. The glass is in fact more than half full and attracting and accommodating more economically active people will unlock yet further potential.”

In the context of these examples, as well as the Fort William 2040 Masterplan and housebuilding programmes in Fort William and Skye, he concludes:

“Each of these initiatives demonstrates the power of partnership and what can be achieved through collaboration. With sustained investment and by working together, we can and will realise new opportunities, attract new talent and investors, and enhance the contribution the West Highlands makes to Scotland’s economy.”