Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has called for a social/economic study into the impact that the revamped Urquhart Castle is having on the Drumnadrochit economy.
Mr Gibson made the call while he was questioning John Graham Chief Executive of Historic Scotland during a session of the Education, Life Long Learning and Culture Committee today. (Wed 16 Jan 2008).
During his questioning Rob asked how Historic Scotland applied one of its aims to Urquhart Castle, which is its third most important paying attraction in the nation (behind Edinburgh and Stirling castles). The aim in question was the one that states 'Historic Scotland is to make the best use of the historic environment to achieve wider aims of social and economic regeneration.’
In that vein he further enquired what effect the success of the Urquhart Castle centre had on the economy of nearby Drumnadrochit since it was reopened in 2002.
Mr Graham answered that he had no information on the social and economic effects of the Historic Scotland project. He noted the contract for catering was with a local firm, however he said that he had received letters of concern about the displacement of trade from Drumnadrochit businesses.
Mr Gibson suggested that Historic Scotland should carry out an economic impact study into the effect that Urquhart castle was having on the immediate economy. Mr Graham responded that a study of that kind would be better carried out by HIE than Historic Scotland.
Mr Gibson said after the committee meeting:
"Historic Scotland has to be as proactive as possible to involve all strands of local business. The Destination Loch Ness Initiative was designed to benefit local people. It should help to achieve Historic Scotland's aim of wider social and economic regeneration by involving as many businesses in the Drumnadrochit area as possible."
"I have been contacted by businesses in the area who tell me that since the new visitor centre has opened up at the castle then footfall has dropped dramatically in Drumnadrochit. Therefore many businesses could be in financial danger. I hope that an appraisal can be made of the situation and a new working partnership can be forged."
He also said that he had written to the head of HIE to see whether they would carry out a socio/economic study into the impact that Urquhart Castle visitor centre has had on Drumnadrochit and the surrounding area.