A PUBLIC organisation is to relocate from its city centre office to an out-of-town base, prompting disappointment and dismay among business leaders.
Dozens of staff at VisitScotland’s Inverness office will vacate the premises in Castle Wynd on August 4 and move into a new base at Great Glen House – which also houses the headquarters of Scottish Natural Heritage – on the western edge of the city.
It is part of a wider move which has seen the tourist information centre relocate to the High Street.
The organisation says it will reduce operational costs as it will no longer have to make contributions to the upkeep of an ageing building.
But the departure of 33 VisitScotland office staff is regarded as a blow to the city centre economy.
Mike Smith, manager of the Inverness Business Improvement District (Bid), said it was a significant number to lose in one go and went against Scottish Government policy to encourage the public sector to continue to invest in town and city centres and help communities thrive.
"I am extremely disappointed," he said. "It is a great loss. It is very important we get offices back into the city centre. The Scottish Government and its allied organisations should be setting an example with their city centre first policy.
"They have a policy to encourage and improve city centres and withdrawing their staff from the centre flies in the face of that."
Long-established city centre trader Charles Leakey was also unhappy at the news.
"Their trade at lunchtime is going to be removed from the city centre," said the owner of Leakey’s Bookshop in Church Street. "It is part of a highly-undesirable pattern."
But a VisitScotland spokeswoman defended the relocation to Great Glen House in Leachkin Road, Kinmylies, saying it fitted in with the government’s Smarter Workplace Programme guidelines. They include making office-based and remote working facilities more flexible and responsive to everyone’s needs.
"The Great Glen House move is a hugely positive step for staff at the VisitScotland Inverness office," she said. "Relocating to modern premises with larger meeting rooms, break-out spaces and video conferencing facilities gives us more scope to have meetings and training in Inverness.
"Although these premises are out-of-town, the benefits of a modern, bright office with direct access to the countryside will undoubtedly have a positive impact on staff, increasing productivity and morale.
"The savings made from moving our office will allow VisitScotland to reinvest in activity which supports our primary objectives of promoting Scotland and attracting more visitors to our cities and towns."
The new VisitScotland iCentre in High Street was officially opened by Scotland’s tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop and VisitScotland chairman Lord Thurso.
Ms Hyslop said the new iCentre recognised the important role VisitScotland had in supporting the needs of visitors to the Highlands and the city.