Highlands & Islands

Batman and Barclays Scottish Open boost north economy

C130 Hercules at Inverness Airport
Image caption A grey C130 Hercules arrived at Inverness Airport last week

Batman has emerged an unlikely economic hero of the Scottish government.

A large transport plane and its crew have been at government-owned Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) Inverness airport since last week.

Hial declined to comment on what the C130 Hercules has been doing or what film project it has, or has not, been attached to.

But media reports and other activity in the Highlands point to a role in the new Batman, The Dark Knight Rises.

However, Hial has confirmed that the aircraft and its crew's stay at Inverness was good for the airport.

Landing and parking the C130, use of a hangar and catering facilities involve a consolidated package of airport charges.

Hial has not said how much money the package was worth.

An airport regular, but not someone who works for Hial, told the BBC News Scotland website that a hangar has been taken over by the Batman team.

Black sheeting has been used to shade production vehicles from being seen from airside by arriving passengers.

The Hercules has also been parked away from general view and just its tail fin has been visible from the airport's car park.

But what is clear amid the secrecy and speculation is that the large grey plane sitting on the airport's apron is part of a wider economic boom for the Inverness area in the space of a month.

The RockNess music festival over three days in June drew a crowd of about 35,000 people to Dores on the shores of Loch Ness.

Following the debut festival in 2006, the authors of an economic impact study estimated that RockNess generated £6.5m for Highland businesses.

Half the 23,500 festival-goers came from outwith the region, said the report by consultancy and event management firm Fair Pley.

Image caption Ernie Els will be among the top class golfers appearing at the Scottish Open

Last year, BBC Radio Scotland's A Monster On My Doorstep programme told of the financial benefits the festival brought to the village of Dores.

The residents set up a trust to manage more than £100,000 donated by RockNess since the first event.

This week will see the next big money-spinner for Inverness and the surrounding area - golf's Barclays Scottish Open at the Castle Stuart links course.

Lee Westwood and Ernie Els are among the top class golfers expected.

Police have said about 20,000 people could attend on each day of the event, which runs from 7-11 July.

According to a Highland Council report the Scottish Open has potential to attract up to 60,000 people and have an economic impact in excess of £5m.

Sandy Park, convener of Highland Council, published a message to golf fans on the local authority's website.

In it he said: "This is the biggest golfing event to take place in the Highlands and we are all greatly looking forward to watching the best players from the European Tour on the outstanding links course and its beautiful surroundings."

Mr Park added: "Businesses and public agencies are pulling out the stops to provide a warm Highland welcome and I sincerely hope you enjoy the golf and your stay in our very special area."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites