Growing and managing exciting new opportunities for northern communities and businesses resulting from the potential UNESCO World Heritage inscription for the Flow Country was the theme of a major gathering of local and national stakeholders last week.
With much of the work on preparing the World Heritage nomination now complete, attention has rapidly turned to the ways in which the widest possible social and economic benefits can be realised if the bid succeeds.
The creation of skills and job opportunities in landscape restoration and conservation, growth in sustainable tourism and hospitality, and the potential of added value to new green finance models to attract global investment to the area were all discussed, as delegates looked ahead to a wide range of benefits from inscription to the world-renowned UNESCO list.
The Flow Country Futures Network meeting in Golspie was attended by representatives from organisations including NW2045, the Federation of Small Businesses, Bell Ingram, Scottish Land & Estates, NatureScot, Visit Scotland, RSPB, Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust, Highland Council, Wildland Ltd, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Government, UHI, NC500 and Venture North, as well as community groups and local councillors.
Frances Gunn, Chair of the Flow Country World Heritage Project said:
“We have always known that UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription has the potential to create a wide spectrum of knock-on opportunities for people living and working in Caithness and Sutherland. Making the most of these, alongside realisation of the Flow Country’s environmental and wellbeing value, is an absolute imperative for the bid team.
“It was really positive to see such energy and optimism from all involved as this project looks to the future in this new phase of activity”.
Dr Steven Andrews, World Heritage Site Project Coordinator added:
“The level of engagement, enthusiasm and collaboration that we’ve seen from such a wide range of organisations and individuals testifies well to the fact that the UNESCO bid has captured imaginations across the north.
“All are determined that if inscription is secured then everything must be done to realise the full environmental, economic and social impacts this will bring to the region. The project team is eager to hear from any organisation or initiative whose objective may align with the bid’s aims.”
The next phase of the World Heritage Site nomination process will be a site evaluation visit from UNESCO designated experts (IUCN) later this year. A report arising from the visit, and further scrutiny of the submitted dossier and associated documentation, will be submitted to UNESCO for consideration at the World Heritage Committee in mid-2024, at which time a decision will be made.