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DAVID SUTHERLAND: I’m convinced King Charles III retains a commitment to Highlands

By David Sutherland

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King Charles III has a genuine love of the Highlands – and the area needs all the backing it can get it as winter beckons.

As a supporter of his North Highland Initiative, which backs projects in Caithness and Sutherland, my wife and I were honoured several years ago to be invited to dinner at Birkhall with the then Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, and a small number of other guests.

Trunk roads in the area need upgrading for a range of reasons.
Trunk roads in the area need upgrading for a range of reasons.

In a stimulating discussion, he displayed attention to detail in his knowledge of the various job-creating, environmental and heritage-related projects in the Initiative portfolio.

Without betraying too much about what was a confidential chat, the [then] Prince showed an awareness of the challenges faced by the Highlands and showed admirable insight in to the importance of the countryside. Thus, I’m convinced our King, who flew north for a week after his mother’s funeral, retains a commitment to the area.

King Charles III. Picture: Wikimedia Commons
King Charles III. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

The spectacular debacle of the much-heralded mini-budget blew up in the former Prime Minister’s face, sending the pound nosediving in an ill-considered and dismal start.

Greater caution was required and instead we found the International Monetary Fund issuing a rebuke as the market response to her original Chancellor’s actions cast a shadow over mortgages and pensions.

The energy cap has kicked in as we all keep an eye on our heating bill with winter not far away.

Those who have limited resources are most at risk. Everything possible needs to be done to ensure that the less fortunate in our midst have adequately-heated accommodation and enough to eat in the coming months.

During the pandemic – which certainly isn’t over yet – having a United Kingdom enabled furlough payments and other emergency subsidies of a scale which would have been beyond the means of the administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

We need the Scottish Government to freeze business tax rates. The hard-pressed hospitality sector in the Highlands would be particularly grateful at a time when, with energy costs and staff shortages, some are wondering whether they can make it through the winter.

The Scottish Government finally approving the A9 and A96 dualling would be a major help – but the signals are not too bright.

Meanwhile, the fires continue to burn in Ukraine with a frightening scenario unfolding following Russia’s formal land grabbing. Hopefully there may be behind-the-scenes talks which allow the basis for some kind of settlement.

We need less heat there and cheaper heat here...

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