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Highland map initiative aims to create a road to somewhere

Having created the hugely successful North Coast 500 tourist route, the North Highlands Initiative’s (NHI) next act is to encourage community projects that will build on the increased numbers of visitors and interest in the area.

The Scottish Land Commission has supported the task by funding an internship. Sam MacKinnon, a political science graduate, used his time at the Commission to create an interactive map identifying land owned and managed for non-profit purposes in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross-shire, and which might also help to support local community ventures.

Sam’s work is part of the Commission’s drive to build future research capacity to support land reform. The map will now be made widely available throughout the Highlands to encourage local groups to think about what they might be able to create, who they could work with and how to tap into the international reputation of the North Coast 500.

Shona Glenn, Head of Policy at Scottish Land Commission said:
“The Land Commission’s work programme covers a wide range of issues – everything from land value tax to community ownership – and as part of that we’re looking to the academic community in Scotland to help us gather evidence, spark debate and develop new approaches, to make the most of Scotland’s land.

“Working with Sam to create this new map, has allowed us to build a valuable new relationship with a young and talented researcher and also helped the NHI in providing a starting point for communities interested in developing tourism-based initiatives.”

Sam MacKinnon, who is from Harris but now living in Glasgow said: “The internship with the Commission has provided invaluable experience enabling me to apply my skills in strategic studies to address real life situations.

“Having grown up on Harris, I am very aware that one of these is the demographic decline of the Highlands and Islands.

“With visitors coming to the Highlands to explore the popular driving route, it has been great to create a resource that will hopefully help the region continue to build and benefit, on that success.”

David Whiteford, Chair of NHI commented:
“This map provides a valuable tool to communities in the North Highlands to identify potential opportunities to build on the success of the NC500 and develop a sustainable infrastructure and employment opportunities around the route.”

The maps can be accessed via this link:

The map is intended to provide a starting point for communities interested in developing tourism based initiatives along the NC500 route by helping them either to identify public assets that might be available for transfer or partners who may be interested in a collaborative project.

The map includes all land and other assets owned by community groups, public agencies and charities operating in the North Highlands region. It can be used to see what assets may be available, where, who owns them, and other information such as the area it covers.