Inverness, the city in the Highlands, is an important centre for trade and commerce and a vital transport hub for the whole Highlands & Islands region. Inverness is a dynamic, fast-growing city with an abundance of natural assets, amenities, and an outstanding location. The population of Inverness increased by almost 20% between 2001 and 2011, and was recently ranked fifth out of all British cities for its quality of life – the highest of any Scottish city.
The Highlands & Islands has a population of almost 500,000 with over 150,000 located in the Inner Moray Firth area and approx. 75,000 based in and around Inverness City. Inverness has a “travel to work” population of over 200,000 with average salaries and average house prices lower than much of Scotland and the UK. The Inverness area is an exciting growing economy with a number of booming industries, most notably tourism, food & drink, energy and the life sciences.
Inverness is hoping to become the second city in Scotland to sign a City Deal, which could lead to an extra £300 million of investment in the area. Following in the footsteps of Glasgow, which signed a City Deal with the UK and Scottish governments in August 2014, The Highland Council (THC) is entering into its own discussions with the UK Treasury with the aim of submitting an Inverness bid for City Deal status. This would lead to powers to support economic growth being devolved locally and funding provided by both governments to pay for projects which improve business productivity and create jobs not just in the city but across the region. An Inverness & Highland City / Region Deal could be worth as much as £300 million over the next 20 years. This would involve a contribution of £113 million from both the UK and Scottish governments and £35 million from THC — money that would be committed to capital projects in the region.
The Scottish Government has described Inverness Campus as one of the most important developments in Scotland. The ambitious £100m development is set to become a nationally and internationally significant location for education and research, delivering a high quality environment for learning, innovation, collaboration and commerce. The Campus, which is now also home to University of Highlands (UHI), will attract leading academics, professionals and students to the city and surrounding area, and is expected to generate up to 6,000 jobs over the next 30 years.
Skills Development Scotland (SDS), Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) have worked together to develop a Skills Investment Plan which considers skills, education, training and outlines a key framework for employers across the region. In addition to The Highland Council (THC) and NHS Highland, major private sector employers in the area include; LifeScan Scotland (part of Johnson & Johnson), Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE), Global Energy Group (Nigg Energy Park), Orion Group and Capgemini.
In the Highlands & Islands, tourism generates around £735m and employs 20,000 people across 3,000 businesses. The Highland region attracts an estimated 5.28million tourists with an expenditure on food and drink within the tourism sector valued at £106m. Inverness regularly has one of the highest average occupancy rates in the UK and Europe. In 2014, occupancy in Inverness rose as high as 94% during the May to September summer peak and the average trip duration for tourists is 5-nights.
The city is also a gateway to many of Scotland’s major tourism destinations including Culloden Battlefield, Cairngorms National Park and Urquhart Castle, located on the shores of nearby Loch Ness. For golfers, Castle Stuart Golf Links is rapidly establishing itself as one of the World’s finest golf courses; having hosted the Scottish Open championship three times since 2011, the European Tour Event is again returning to Inverness in 2016. There are a further 3 championship golf courses in the area including The Nairn Golf Club, Royal Dornoch and Spey Valley. The Highlands can also boast two football teams in the Scottish Premier League, a range of major fashion retailers such as M&S, Next, H&M, Debenhams and Eden Court Theatre, one of the largest multi-purpose arts venues in Scotland.