Highlands & Islands

£315m city region deal 'not benefiting' Lochaber

Lochaber Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Councillor Andrew Baxter said Lochaber would miss out on millions of pounds of investment

Areas of the Highlands such as Lochaber, Caithness and Sutherland will not benefit from a £315m funding package, a councillor has said.

The Inverness City Region Deal, announced in March by Highland Council and the Scottish and UK governments, involves direct funding and borrowing.

But Lochaber councillor Andrew Baxter said Inverness and its surrounding areas would see most of the investment.

Highland Council said the deal would invest in projects in the wider region.

Earlier this month, the local authority said business cases for projects worth about £48m had been submitted for Inverness City Region Deal funding.

About £15m has been sought for a plan to turn Inverness Castle from a criminal and civil courts building into a tourist attraction.

Cases have also been made for an £11m Northern Innovation Hub and £10m to make vacant land at Inverness' Longman available to businesses.

The Scottish and UK governments will consider Highland Council's bids.

'Engine house'

Mr Baxter told BBC Radio Scotland: "We are continually being told that it is a city region deal for the whole of the Highlands, but everything that I am seeing, that is being reported or coming out from the council officers suggests otherwise.

"It is quite clearly a city deal that will predominantly benefit Inverness and the immediate area and we will see little benefit beyond that.

"This was a deal that was done behind closed doors by council officials and civil servants in London and Edinburgh with virtually no input from local councillors."

Highland Council said the deal would support healthcare, affordable housing, transport and employment projects with pan-Highland benefits.

A council spokeswoman said: "The city region deal is worth £315m of investment which is anticipated to attract a further £1bn of private investment to the region.

"Cities are the engine house of their regions and the investment in infrastructure in the Inverness area will benefit the whole Highland region.

"Several projects investing in education, research and young people, as well as assisted living, will bring also benefit to a number of areas across the Highlands. The affordable housing, digital and innovative hub projects are all Highland-wide projects."

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